This story is featured in the Spring 2015 issue of Showcase: The Canada Edition. View the complete publication at trentu.ca/showcase
With some pressing issues before us as a nation, how can the past inform the present? As Canada approaches its 150th anniversary, Trent University faculty members and students will embark on a journey to find out.
With the philanthropic leadership of Ontario-based executives William A. Macdonald and William R.K. Innes, the Canadian Studies Department will endeavour to engage Canadians in an unprecedented conversation about their country.
Macdonald and Innes have pledged to raise $600,000 to support the project, the vision for which they shaped in consultation with Trent's founding president and Canadian Studies scholar Thomas H.B. Symons and chair of Canadian Studies Dr. Christopher Dummitt.
A launch pad for discussion
An interactive website will be the launch pad for the conversation, but Prof. Dummitt says the project's outreach will be dynamic and move beyond technical and traditional borders. While the project's name is still under wraps, the conversation is set to begin in fall 2015.
"We want Canadians to have a conversation about their country," says Prof. Dummitt, adding the dialogue will be inspired by the concept of mutual accommodation. "We will explore the way mutual accommodation has been at the centre of Canada’s history."
Prof. Dummitt points to the fundamental differences between French and English-speaking Canada and the way Canada has managed to successfully live through and celebrate these differences. But he also cites failings of accommodation — the federal government's approach to its Indigenous peoples, for example.
"To what extent can Canada's history of successful accommodation give us an example to build toward the future?"
Bilingual dialogue rooted in Canadian history
The completely bilingual conversation will take place mostly online through podcasts and discussion forums, moderated by Trent graduate students. The goal will be to engage “interested” Canadians from across the country in a dialogue around various important Canadian issues. Grad students will both moderate the forums and work behind the scenes to evaluate the discussion. Many Trent experts will be involved in the project which will also reach out to academics and experts across the country.
And while the dialogue will be rooted in Canadian history, contemporary issues — like climate change and issues facing Indigenous peoples — will also be explored.
"Trent University was so important to putting Canadian Studies on the map in this country. It’s wonderful that Trent will help take this conversation in new digital directions in the 21st century," says Prof. Dummitt.
For updates on this exciting new project, visit the Canadian Studies Department website at trentu.ca/canadianstudies