If there’s one thing I’ve learned about our country’s history while producing BNN’s special Canada 150 series, it’s that our past is a tapestry as rich and deep as the land itself and the people that call it home.
The Canadian story began centuries before Confederation in 1867, and without the influence of Indigenous Peoples, it’s likely that many modern comforts would have taken a different form or perhaps a slower evolutionary path. For example, the Iroquois were harvesting and processing sugar maple sap long before we enjoyed slathering it on breakfast pancakes. And in the 18th century, the Cree showed European settlers how bituminous sands from the Athabasca could be used to waterproof canoes.
Europe’s influence on Canada is much clearer: legal tradition, governance structures, a market-based economy, and a spirit of entrepreneurialism. That fervor for success fueled much of the growth and prosperity in this country leading up to and following its official creation. And in the generations since, Canada has become more diverse while maintaining much of our original ethos and becoming a global force in a wide variety of arenas (in that humble way, that is just as much a part of our character).
When we set out to create the BNN Canada 150 series, the goal was to honour, celebrate, and remember the economic and corporate events, milestones, leaders, and processes that have brought us to where we are today. What we didn’t realize was that choosing the subjects and condensing them into short videos would not be nearly as easy as we imagined. Yet, here we are at the end of this project, and I cannot be more proud of what we have accomplished, nor the country that has afforded us the opportunity to do it.
Here are my five favourite Canada 150 videos from the series:
Oil played a part in Canada’s economy long before the discovery of the Leduc oilfield in Alberta, but this was the game-changing moment. The massive reserve turned Canada from an energy player into an energy powerhouse, and it helped sustain economic growth in the West. Only recently has oil sands production overtaken conventional sources.
Few things say Canada like hockey and hot coffee. The story of Tim Hortons is full of entrepreneurial spirit, bold expansion, and a brilliant mix of culture and product. Unlike any other Canadian brand, Tim Hortons has cemented itself as part of our national identity – a notable feat unto itself.
Canada’s role in auto manufacturing is no secret, but the history leading up to it may be surprising to many. For example, a Canadian invented one of the earliest cars ever recorded. And the industry is also a great display of the impact of free trade – the precursor to NAFTA killed many Canadian car brands, but led to more jobs in the industry and more prosperity for the country.
Not all of our history is something to celebrate, but it contains lessons that we would be wise to not forget. The story of Bre-X is one of immense fraud, massive market gains, suspicious death, and destroyed fortunes. It’s a tale so tantalizing, Hollywood turned it into a movie (even if the producers changed some facts to make it more marketable).
There are so many stories that started before Confederation, but none had as much of an impact on the creation of the country as the creation of the railroad system. Historian George Stanley put it best: “Bonds of steel as well as of sentiment were needed to hold the new Confederation together. Without railways there would be and could be no Canada.”