Our Promise to Future Generations

Reflections on the past and future of Canada’s history.

Written by Janet Walker and Joanna Dawson

Posted September 14, 2020

Since its inception, Canada’s National History Society has dedicated itself to raising awareness of our country’s diverse past.

The society began its work in 1994 when it took responsibility for publishing the Hudson’s Bay Company’s nearly seventy-five-year-old magazine, The Beaver. Pledging to “promote interest in and knowledge of Canadian history,” the fledgling history society soon began to expand its horizons.

In 1994 Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, a former teacher, offered to work with the history society to create the Governor General’s History Awards, a national recognition program for teachers of Canadian history. Since then, more than two hundred educators have been recognized with Governor General’s History Awards, and the awards program has expanded to include academics, museums, community groups, popular-media storytellers, and more.

Over the years, Canada’s History has developed a network of award-winning teachers, academics, and others who help us to develop programs that promote research, critical thinking, and multiple perspectives. The awards program also encourages conversation and dialogue among history organizations and history enthusiasts across Canada.

Working together, we have accomplished much. Yet new challenges lie ahead. As Canadians, we must continually revisit the past and acknowledge mistakes and missteps.

We must commit to engagement with diverse communities, seek out new storytellers and stories, and understand and accept that the problems of today are rooted in history. Collaboration is crucial if we are going to successfully learn from and share histories that are inclusive, truthful, rich with context, and reflective of the lives of all Canadians.

It’s a tall order, and we can’t do it alone. We return once again to the teachers — and to their students, who are leaders in their own right. Our collective journey as a country is brought to light in part by the questions of our youngest citizens — and by the teachers who compel these leaders of tomorrow to exercise curiosity and to seek evidence that guides critical thinking.

As Canadians everywhere embark on the next steps of a continuing journey, Canada’s History Society will be there to listen and to adapt, so that we remain relevant for future generations. The society is committed to dedicating its robust platform to amplifying the voices of all, and to sharing the stories that for too long have been pushed to the margins.

Facing the past is not always easy. As we mark our twenty-sixth year as an organization, Canada’s History Society is reflecting on its own history. We know that the legacy of The Beaver is complicated, sometimes even problematic.

However, we also know that within the pages of the magazine there is great potential to encourage new questions and perspectives in sharing history with future generations. We invite you to please visit CanadasHistory.ca/TeachingBeaver100 to explore our teaching resources and to engage with the magazine as a rich, primary resource.

Asking challenging and sometimes difficult questions is key to achieving a more complete understanding of the past. Canada’s History Society is inspired to connect and to collaborate with all readers, learners, and leaders, knowing that the questions raised and challenges we confront together as a country will ignite an honest dialogue and lead to a more inclusive version of Canadian history.

This article originally appeared in the October-November 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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