From a national happiness index to watershed jurisdictions to females comprising at least half the political offices, a new national project is sparking all kinds of ideas for a bright Canadian future. That’s a key goal for the Canada 300 project — to surface “improbable aspirations for an unexpected country.” But the bigger story is how hungry Canadians seem to be for the possibility-oriented dialogues that are central to the project.
“People are thanking us for the opportunity to talk about something they find meaningful,” says Canada 300 facilitation and public engagement lead, Brian Woodward.
“They reflect almost an ache to have a change — a change in focus from the day-to-day news cycle that makes them feel the world is a terrible place to live in . . . and from the fear that is inculcated in most stories we receive through the media.
“People want to talk about themselves and their hopes and aspirations as ‘people,’ as ‘persons,’ not as consumers or workers. People seem to be seeking an opportunity to connect more deeply and to share and to listen.”
Coupled with that hunger for a new kind of conversation is a strong desire to “do something,” Brian says. “People are itching to take some tangible steps towards what they want.”
The source of this yearning is likely in part the polarization and harsh lines emerging in government and public discourse, Brian says. “People realize that one view alone cannot win out, it takes multiple perspectives to address complex issues and it takes a willingness to collaborate.”
There is also a growing recognition that the country as a whole has some serious issues to address, including the loss of the aboriginal voice.
“Recognizing and accepting the mistakes of our past is possible. We all know these mistakes but we seldom have a general and far-ranging discussion of them as citizens,” Brian says.
Canada 300 is a bold, imaginative project of the non-profit arts organization, Watermark Theatre. It is being delivered in anticipation of Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. The notion is that this is an ideal time to call on Canadians to help shape their country’s next 150 years.
Comprising a unique blend of theatrical productions and community dialogues, Canada 300 is visiting 21 Canadian cities this spring. It wraps up with a final big conversation in Charlottetown, the site of the gathering that first led to the formation of Canada as a nation.
“The use of theatre as a key component of the Canada 300 process has provided a way to engage people on an emotional level,” Brian says.
“The plays provide a visual reality of some of the issues we, as Canadians, are faced with as well as an opportunity to glimpse the soul of we, as a country.”
Brian’s big hope is that the Canada 300 project begins to awaken Canadians to their role as citizens of this country, where they not only share their aspirations for their country but take steps to co-create their dreams and bring them to life.
“We can see Canadians (begin) to awaken to the tasks of creating the future; begin to take actions, to plant seeds that could make a change, a difference. Action increases commitment to further action, whether it is hosting further conversations, getting engaged in local community projects or founding new political and social movements.
“The best possible result is to awaken Canadians to their responsibility as citizens and to their enormous power as a collective.”
Canada 300 performances and dialogues take place March 10 in Calgary. To learn more, click here.