History conference opens student's eyes

By Savka Andic
Burnaby Secondary School
Burnaby, British Columbia

Picture, in your mind's eye: Montréal, Québec, late January, the dead of winter. How's the weather there? The less said, the better.

Swarms of people are crowded into Montréal's vast network of subterranean malls and train stations. Some of them are seeking refuge from the Arctic weather, some of them can't wait to get into the Arctic weather.

And yet a few more are on their way to a conference. A conference that is happening for the first time ever, a conference that will unite the choicest aspects of Canada, that will consolidate national identity, that will boost morale, and heighten true patriotism, and of course, the cocktails.

So what could this be? And the answer is quite simple - a one of a kind conference on the importance of Canadian History,"Giving The Past A Future", hosted by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, from January 29 - 31, 1999.

The activities were endless, the opportunities to learn were marvellous, the time span - too short! After all, a mere weekend was hardly enough time for me to attend all of the sessions on the teaching of history throughout the nation, let alone interview heads of major historical foundations and try every weird French sauce on the hotel menu.

The event was genuinely engaging, as it was presented in a very accessible and fun way. The booths dealing with such issues as Technology in the Classroom, History Online, and Archaeological Excavations provided invaluable opportunities for both students and adults to experience the past by living it, learning about it, and giving it a future.

As a student, my task was to document the conference by interviewing such figures as the Programs Manager of History Television and eating as much free food as possible. I also attended various workshop sessions, where presenters from across the country discussed and shared their positive and negative experiences concerning the teaching and the relevance of history in Canada. Many of these sessions were entertaining as well as interesting, and lent the conference great meaning and worth.

Despite the work that had to be completed, there wasn't a dull moment the entire time, given the fact that I had the privilege of having come in contact with Canadian students from sea to sea.

All things considered, I had a fabulous weekend. It would not be an exaggeration on my part to declare that I left the conference on Sunday with a stronger sense of national identity, not to mention a few extra pounds.