History conference opens students eyes to country's past

By Brandon Strilisky
Unionville High School
Unionville, Ontario

The Giving the Past a Future conference is an experience I will never forget. I received a greater knowledge on the teaching of Canadian history in one weekend than I have throughout my schooling career. My stay in Montreal and the experience of attending the Conference are once in a lifetime opportunities, and one of the most beneficial experiences to my continuous improvement as a history student.

The opportunity to come to Montreal for the weekend was a privilege. After my history teacher, Mr. McAdam asked me to join him at the weekend, I felt honoured to be a guest of Canada's National History Society. I really did not know what to expect before the conference began.

So for starters, I have learned how a large conference would operate. As well, I never consciously realized or thought about the important figures in Canadian history, and by attending not only did I find out who they are, and what they do, but I had the opportunity to meet and talk with some of them.

Something that I found really fascinating was being surrounded by another language. I had never been to Quebec before, and visiting a new city, and trying to communicate with people who spoke a different language was actually really fun. Being able to meet students and teachers from almost every province was something that I may never have had the chance to do if it were not for this conference, and for that I am that much more aware of the state of Canadian history, and the teaching of it in Canada's school system.

This conference, from my perspective, was extremely successful and beneficial to all those who attended, and I am hopeful that they will continue to take place, and that in the future I will have the opportunity to attend again. On top of all this, being surrounded for a weekend by extremely considerate and friendly people meant a great deal.

Desmond Morton
Desmond Morton, Director, The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said the conference went very well and that the best aspect of the conference was that it allowed for historians to gather from across Canada to discuss their views on various fields of study. Without there ever being a national gathering like this before, historians from across Canada were never able to hear first hand what was happening in other provinces. Morton also said there is no national organization in Canada for history, as there is in many other countries, so he hoped that this event would lead to the beginning of such an institution.

Ken Osborne, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, said he was impressed with the sessions that had taken place over the weekend, and the importance of the conference. He said the conference is the first gathering of people on the topic of Canadian history that croesses so many borders -- almost every province was represented, language barriers were crossed, and people from every field related to history were present. He felt that not only was this conference extremely important to the teaching of history in Canada, but also that this is not a one-time affair. Osborne hopes this will lead to a unification of people from across Canada who are looking out for the well-being of Canadian history.

Ken Osborne

The conference featured an extensive display area with booths from book publishers, producers of cd-rom and websites, television and film productions, historical groups, educational projects and heritage sites

This picture was taken at the Pointe-à-Callierè Museum. A group of students and teachers visited the site on Sunday morning. Not only did everyone learn a great deal about historic Montreal through the artifacts, multi-media displays, and archaeological remains that were present, but a great time was had by all who went.

Al Skeoch
Al Skeoch is an author and former president of the Ontario History and social science Teacher's Association,. He said students are the future of history education and should be playing more of a role in the conference. Furthermore, he thinks that technology's impact on teaching history (CD-Rom's and the Internet) will never replace learning through reading books and using one's imagination when it comes to discovering the past.