Friday Two Cents: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – Ottawa & Gatineau


I had the opportunity to visit the Ottawa area to take in some Canadian 150 celebration. Once there I did a lot of sight seeing in the usual places like the museums, the mint and the ByWard Market. However there was a new attraction in Gatineau that was unique that celebrated the diversity of Canada and its sheer beauty. It was the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017.

Jacques-Cartier Park Gatineau hosted the biggest horticultural event in Canada, the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017. Mosaiculture is a most spectacular horticultural technique that combines the following different art forms:
  • Sculpture for the structure,
  • Paint for the palette of colours, and
  • Horticulture as the means of creating living and changing artworks with plants.
The theme of the exhibit reflected on the 150 years of history, values, culture and arts in Canada, represented by more than 40 different arrangements. Admission to the MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 exhibit in Jacques-Cartier Park is free and it was a spectacular site to see.
After the garden exhibit I enjoyed a unique exhibition at the History Museum that happened to be right across the street from Jacques-Cartier Park. The exhibit is called “Hockey”, what’s more Canadian then that. It was an exploration of Canada’s game for the very beginning, through the creation of the National Hockey League (NHL), the Olympics and other international games all from a distinctly Canadian point of view.
If you are going to Ottawa one place you need to visit is the ByWard Market. It is a great place to get anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to any little nick-knack. They also have a wide variety of restaurants, bakeries and cafés. One was even visited by former President Obama where he bought a beaver tail and some cookies for his daughters.
Yet the day was topped off by a wonderful light presentation at the Parliament buildings. It is a sound and light show that journeys through Canada’s history. It shows Canadian stories of nation building, partnership, discovery, valour, pride and vision for a country. Key figures, events and achievements from Canadian history are brought to life using five distinct artistic styles. All are presented in spectacular detail, with a bilingual narration and an amazing music score that is projected on the Parliament builds, Centre Block and Peace Tower. There where times during the presentation where I felt myself tear up as a swell of national pride came over me. If you go to Ottawa just for this show it is well worth the trip. It truly was an amazing sight to see and I was lucky enough to find a copy of the show on YouTube. It is about 30 minutes but it is time well spent.

Going to Ottawa has always been a treat for me and I have been there on numerous occasions. Yet every time I go I cannot help be filled with pride and love for my birth country. The history, the accomplishments and vision of Canada have always been an inspiration to me. This trip has only deepened my love for Canada and I can proudly shout out for the entire world to hear…

“I AM CANADIAN!!”

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Friday Two Cents: Canada 150 Ottawa Trip – The Royal Canadian Mint


 

This past week I visited a familiar place that I love going to over and over again; our nation’s capital Ottawa.

I have been to Ottawa many times but every time I go there I am filled with patriotism and pride for my birth country Canada. I have been to most, if not all, of the museums the city has to offer like the War Museum and Parliament Hill. One of the places I visited was Royal Canadian Mint.

The Royal Canadian Mint

At the mint I was able to go for a tour, yet you cannot take pictures inside because even though the outside looks like a castle, inside it is a working factory. Once inside they showed us the process of transforming bricks of gold, silver and platinum into investment and collector coins. They have a forge that melts down the metal, presses, cuts, weights, inspects and stamps the coins. It was a very informative tour and an impressive process.
However, I also learned a lot about the mint that I had not known before. I found out that the mint also produces coins for other countries. They estimated that they have produced coins for over 60 countries. Not only coins but the mint also created the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympics and the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Para Pan Am Medals. They had examples of the Olympic medals on display and I learned that each medal has a part of a larger image. If you place all the medals beside each other they create an aboriginal artwork of an orca and the Paralympic medals of a raven. Not only that but the medal are in a wavy shape to represent the mountain range in British Columbia. Inspiring!

The 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games Medals

They also told us about their purity of the gold. Most gold in the world is pure to 99.99 (99.99%) or four 9s. But the Royal Canadian Mint can get a purity of five 9s or 99.999. They showed us the largest, purest gold coin in the world. It has a face value of $1,000,000 CAD. The Australians have a larger gold coin but theirs’ is only 99.99 pure. The Canadian coin is 99.999 pure and they made only 5 coins, which a few individuals and companies bought them. But because they are also collectors’ coins their value has gone up to be worth about $4 million and it keeps going up in value. One was stolen from a Berlin museum in March and its whereabouts are currently unknown. Another one of the owners is a billionaire from Saudi Arabia. They say he uses is as a coffee table. Must be nice to have money eh.

Canadian 1Million dollar Gold Coin

After the tour I was even able to lift a bar of gold. Mind you it was chained to the platform and a security guard was right beside it. If you ever get a chance to lift a bar of gold, try it. The first thing that I noticed was that the gold was soft to the touch like lead or hard clay but metallic. Also it was extremely heavy. One bar of gold weights 28 pounds and with the price of gold I was holding about $725,000 CAD or $575,000 US in my hands. I can now say that I have held over a half a million dollars in my hands, WWWOOO what a rush. Gold rush, that is.

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 5 – The National War Memorial


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The other memorial I visited is the one most dear to my heart and sense of patriotism. It is the National War Memorial. Unveiled in 1939 to commemorate the Canadians who served in World War I (WWI), it has over the years come to symbolize the tremendous sacrifice of all Canadians who served in times of war for freedom. It has been later rededicated and the dates 1939 – 1945 (World War II (WWII)) and 1950 – 1953 (Korean War) has been placed in bronze on each side of the memorial. In 2000 the Tomb of Canada’s Unknown Soldier was added on the site in front of the memorial. Inside is a Canadian soldier that fought during WWI near the site of the battle of Vimy Ridge. Today it is the site of Canada’s Remembrance Day celebrations and stands as a constant reminder that the cost of freedom is sometimes paid for in blood.

For me this is one of the most important sites in Ottawa and whenever I visit the capital I always visit the memorial to pay my respects to the people who fought, so that I may live in a country that is free. A country where I do not have to fear religious persecution, where I have the freedom to say and do what I want; a country where the government is elected by the people for the people. A country where my little nieces will grow up free to vote and be whatever they want to be.

I use to come once every two years for the Remembrance Day celebrations but I have not been to Ottawa in about 15 years and therefore I have not visited the memorial. This is my first time seeing the Tomb of Canada’s Unknown Soldier and I could not help but be touched by the thought of who and what it represents. We do not know who he is, only that he was a Canadian. He represents all our sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and friends who died in service for all of us. I could not help but stop and say a silent prayer of thanks and gratitude for his sacrifice.

When I arrived and spent time at the memorial I could not help but reflect of what this memorial represents to me.   For me this memorial is a symbol to all Canadians that this country is the way it is because of those who sacrificed so much on the altar of freedom.   Then the words from the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ came to me and their words mean so much even today nearly 100 years after they were written. It speaks of the dead, passing the torch to the next generation and to remember them. And then the words rang true to me …

In Flanders fields the poppies blow


Between the crosses, row on row,


That mark our place; and in the sky


The larks, still bravely singing, fly


Scarce heard amid the guns below.



 

We are the Dead. Short days ago


We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,


Loved and were loved, and now we lie


In Flanders fields.



 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:


To you from failing hands we throw


The torch; be yours to hold it high.


If ye break faith with us who die


We shall not sleep, though poppies grow


In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields by Major John McCrea

(A Canadian poet and physician who served in World War I)

It is my turn to take up the torch and hold it high. I will not break faith with those who die. They can sleep though poppies grow, in Flanders Fields.

Rest, be at peace and thank you.

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 4 – Statues/Memorials


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If you go to Ottawa, you cannot help but notice that there are statues wherever you go, especially around the parliament buildings. Wherever I went, I saw different statues and memorials to different people, groups of people or events that touched Canada in one way or another. I could not visit all of them because Parliament Hill was going through a lot of reconstruction and restoration. Probably for Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in 2017. I am including a list of the ones I saw or visited.

  1. A new one that I saw was the War of 1812 Monument. The monument is entitled Triumph Through Diversity. It has all the key participants that defended Canada and defeated the American invasion.
    1. A Métis fighter firing a cannon
    2. A woman bandaging the arm of a Voltigeur
    3. A Royal Navy sailor pulling a rope
    4. A First Nations warrior pointing into the distance
    5. A Canadian militiaman raising his arm in triumph
    6. A member of the British Army’s Royal Newfoundland Regiment, firing a musket
  1. The Peacekeeping Monument. In 1988 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the UN Peace keepers. This monument is in recognition of the Canadian armed forces contribution to the pursuit of peace as peacekeepers.  The monument shows three peacekeepers, two men and a woman, standing on two sharp knifelike edges of stone. It shows it cutting through the rubble and debris of war. It is to symbolize for the position of the peacekeepers at the end of a conflict, on the razors or swords edge, a very dangerous place to be. The writing on the monument is a quote from Lester B. Pearson: “We need action not only to end the fighting but to make the peace… My own government would be glad to recommend Canadian participation in such a United Nations force, a truly international peace and police force.” (Lester B. Pearson, November 2, 1956)
  1. Terry Fox Statue. If you read my post on the Canadian Museum of History I think very highly of Terry Fox. Just to give some facts, he ran a total of 143 days, through the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario. However, bone cancer that had claimed part of his right leg returned. He was forced to stop his run near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Terry Fox died on June 28, 1981, one month before his 23rd birthday.
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The Terry Fox Statue

  1. The Famous Five. A tribute to Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards is also known as the Famous Five. These women won the “Persons” Case, a 1929 court ruling, which legally declared women as persons under the British North America Act and made them eligible for appointment to the Canadian Senate. This monument is entitled “Women are Persons!”
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The Famous Five

  1. Queen Elizabeth II she is portrayed on her horse Centenial – the former RCMP horse officially presented to Her Majesty in 1977 – Queen Elizabeth II has reigned as Canada’s monarch since 1952.
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Queen Elizabeth II

  1. Sir John A. Macdonald. One of the founding Fathers of Confederation, Sir John A. Macdonald was Canada’s first prime minister. During his terms Canada experienced rapid growth and prosperity. Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and British Columbia joined Confederation; as well the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s transcontinental railway line was driven into the ground.
  1. Sir Wilfred Laurer. He was Canada’s first Francophone Prime Minister from 1896 to 1911. During his office Canada experienced growth and prosperity, with Alberta and Saskatchewan joined Confederation, the last British troops were withdrawn from Canada and the Royal Canadian Navy was founded.
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Sir Wilfred Laurer

  1. William Lyon Mackenzie King. During his administration he introduced unemployment insurance, family allowance, and Canadian citizenship. King led the country from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, holding power as prime minister for almost 22 years. The longest in Canadian history.
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William Lyon Mackenzie King

These statues and memorials remind us of the extraordinary people that helped to shape Canada in the magnificent country it is today. There is one more memorial I visited, but I think it deserves its own post.

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 3 – The Royal Canadian Mint


 

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If this trip to Ottawa had a golden moment I would have to say that my visit to the Royal Canadian Mint would fit the bill. If you are not familiar with the Royal Canadian Mint they produce the coinage for Canada, but that is only one aspect of what they do. There are three locations that the mint maintains, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa. The one in Winnipeg produces the circulation coins for Canada, while the facility in Ottawa is responsible for the mint quality coins and the bullion investment coins, or coins made from silver, gold and platinum.

The Royal Canadian Mint

I was able to go for a tour of the Ottawa site but you cannot take pictures inside because even though the outside looks like a castle, inside it is a working factory. There they showed us the process of transforming bricks of gold, silver and platinum into the investment and collector coins. They have a forge that melts the metal, presses that cut, weight, inspect and stamp the coins. It was a very informative tour and an impressive process.

Yet I also learned a lot about the mint that I had not known before. I found out that the mint also produces coins for other countries. They estimated that they have produced coins for over 60 countries. Not only coins but the mint also created the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympics and the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Para Pan Am Medals. They had examples of the Olympic medals on display and I learned that each medal has a part of a larger image. If you place all the medals beside each other they create an aboriginal artwork of an orca and the Paralympic medals of a raven. Not only that but the medal are in a wavy shape to represent the mountain range in British Columbia. Inspiring!

Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Medals

Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympic Medals

 

Orca (Left) and Raven (Right) Designs

 

They also told us about their purity of the gold. Most gold in the world is pure to 99.99 (99.99%) or four 9s. But the Royal Canadian Mint can get a purity of five 9s or 99.999. They showed us the largest, purest gold coin in the world. It has a face value of $1,000,000 CAD. The Australians have a larger gold coin but theirs’ is only 99.99 pure. The Canadian coin is 99.999 pure. They said they made only 5 coins and people and companies have bought them. But because they are also collectors’ coins their value has gone up to be worth about $2.1 million and it keeps going up in value. One of the owners is a billionaire from Saudi Arabia. They say he uses is as a coffee table. Must be nice to have money eh.

Million Dollar Coin

After the tour I was even able to lift a bar of gold. Mind you it was chained to the platform and a security guard was right beside it. If you ever get a chance to lift a bar of gold, try it. The first thing that I noticed was that the gold was soft to the touch like lead or hard clay but metallic. Also it was extremely heavy. One bar of gold weights 28 pounds and with the price of gold I was holding about $675,000 CAD or $500,000 US in my hands. I can now say that I have held over a half a million dollars in my hands, WWWOOO what a rush. Gold rush, that is. 😉

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Gold I love Gold!!! Over a half a Million dollars in my hands.

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 2 – The Canadian Museum of History


 

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The other location I made a point in visiting was the Canadian Museum of History. Formally named the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they have amazing artifacts from the early Peoples in Canada to the modern age. Yet this is not the reason why I wanted to visit this museum. They have a special exhibit entitled – The Greeks – Agamemnon to Alexander the Great.   This special exhibit has over 500 artifacts from Greek Museums that span from the earliest moment of the ancient Greek civilization up to Alexander the Great.  

The day I went to see the exhibit was one of the hottest days this summer and I decided to park my car in Ottawa and walk to the museum. However, if you know the capital region the museum is in Hull Quebec and I had to walk a kilometer in the 33o C with the humidity it felt like 40o C.   Yet for some reason I enjoy the hot weather and I relished the walk across the, Alexandra Bridge. It seemed appropriate for the occasion.

 

The Canadian Museum of History

 

Once at the museum I bypassed the regular exhibits (I have seen them when I came to Ottawa on an earlier trip) and went straight for the Greek exhibit. I have to tell you that I was in awe when I entered. They had artifacts dating back to 5300 – 4800 BCE with female fertility figurines. The amazing thing is that I saw similar artifacts in Malta from around the same time.

There were countless more artifacts that made me stop and take notice. Such things as urns with depictions of Achilles fighting and dragging Hector’s body. Statues of ancient heroes, birth of the Olympic Games, family seal rings, artifacts that depict the Iliad and Odyssey, ancient coins, head busts of Plato, Aristotle and Alexander and many, many more. In the end I cannot tell you all about each one. But I can tell you about a few that made me stop and in wonder.  

Boar-Tusk Helmet, Sparta, 13th Century BCE

One amazing artifact was an ancient Boar-tusk Helmet on display. This helmet was worn in battle and created from the tusks of up to 50 boars. The amazing thing about this artifact is that the warrior or hunter had to hunt down all the boars for the tusks. Imagine it’s the 15th century BCE and you’re hunting down 50 wild boars, each weighing between 75 – 100 kg, with ancient weapons such as spears and bows and arrows. It makes you think that our ancestors were made of sterner stuff.

The most impressive artifacts were made of, naturally, gold. One such artifact was something I knew about through my studies in university on the ancient Greek and Roman culture. Hienrich Schliemann found this amazing artifact in the ruins of Mycenae. He found many royal burial sites in the city, one that dated back to the time when the story of the Iliad probably took place. In one such burial site he found a death mask, which he called the “Mask of Agamemnon”.

A death mask is placed over the face of the mummified person. Schliemann associated the discovery to the Greek hero of the mythical conqueror of Troy. He actually discovered the top mask first and proclaimed “I have gazed upon the eyes of Agamemnon.” He later found a second death mask of a bearded man. Its beauty and detail convinced Schliemann to change his mind and associated this second mask to Agamemnon.

Funeral Mask – 16th Century BCE

The “Mask of Agamemnon” – 16th Century BCE

These masks were breathtaking and a wonder to behold. I remembered studying these moments in history in university and going over images of these artifacts but know I can see them in person. Many of these artifacts have never left Greece before now and it was a privilege to behold them in all their wonder.

 

Even though I enjoyed the Greek exhibit I did indulge in a couple of other exhibitions. There was the 1867 – Rebellion & Confederation exhibit that showed the events and motivations that brought the different regions of Canada together to create this great nation. Most of the events shown in the exhibit I knew about, but I had to stop and think that not many people in Canada take the time to actually look into how Canada was created. This was a great way to refresh my memory and for students and new Canadians to understand where we came from and why things happened.

The other exhibit I made a point on visiting was the Terry Fox – Running to the Heart of Canada exhibit. If you do not know about Terry Fox he is a Canadian legend who had cancer and decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research. The amazing thing was that Terry had his leg amputated and was running across Canada with a prosthetic lime. Today prosthetics are pretty advanced with amputees running and jumping like they never lost a limb. But in the early 1980s technology was not so advanced. His leg had a simple hinge that helped a bit with his running. But Terry suffered as he ran with his signature step hope but he pushed on. Today many people continue the run Terry started, raising millions for cancer research. The best part was the section where you can see all the letters and cards Terry received from people, including children, supporting him and just thanking him. On the back wall you can leave a note saying why Terry Fox is important to you. I left a note saying,

 

Terry showed you can do anything so long as put your mind to it.

Thanks Terry for giving me hope.   Paul Gauchi

In the end that is what this whole experience meant to me. From the birth of a civilization, to the struggle of a group of colonies coming together to create a nation, to the desire of a young man wanting to make a difference. That is what this museum will always have at it core. Hope for the human race, that we can do anything so long as we put our minds to it.

 

Friday Two Cents: Ottawa Trip Part 1 – The Canadian War Museum


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   In the past I use to go to Ottawa (Canada’s capital) at least once every 2 – 5 years for the culture or for Remembrance Day. Yet I have not gone to the nation’s capital for the past 15+ years for a variety of reasons. Therefore I decided to go this year on a spur of the moment idea. Mind you I did book a room and made plans on what I wanted to see but I was inspired by my earlier adventures this year to Discovery Harbour and Fort George. I delved into Canada’s past and learned a few things about my Canadian heritage and I wanted to learn more.

And what better way to discover Canada than to drive across its beautiful landscape. I love to drive and driving to Ottawa was as fun as doing things there. It takes about 4 ½ hours to drive to Ottawa from Toronto but I did it in about 5 hours. I stopped a couple of times for washroom breaks, to stretch my legs and to get something to eat. The landscape is beautiful with trees, wetlands, lakes, rivers and rolling hills wherever you look.

Toronto to Ottawa

Ontario Landscape

Ontario Landscape

       In Ottawa I wanted to learn not only about Canadian history and politics and what me and everyone living in this country Canadians but also about other interests of mine. I saw and experienced a lot in Ottawa that I cannot place it all in one post, I have to divide it into several. Hence this will be the first of perhaps 4 – 5 posts about a few sites I explored in Ottawa.

The Canadian War Museum

The first place I visited was the new Canadian War Museum building. Well for me it is new; I went to the Canadian War Museum before when it was in the old building. The new building opened on May 8th, 2005 on the 60th anniversary of VE day (Victory in Europe). They have wonderful exhibits on every era in Canadian history pertaining to conflicts that Canada was involved in. From the First Peoples to early settlers, the war of 1812, Confederation, The Boar War, World Wars I & II, the Korean War, the Cold war up until the present. They had artifacts from muskets to rifles, early aviation, tanks and models of warships. The best part of the museum showed the personal side of the conflicts showing ordinary Canadians and what they did to preserve our freedom.

They also had a special exhibit on the Roman Empire, specifically the Gladiators. It was amazing to see the artifacts from the Roman world and other pieces from the Coliseum. The Roman Empire is my favourite ancient civilization, I also took several courses in university on the subject matter. I enjoyed the exhibit immensely.  

However, one such area touched me to the point I had to stop and reflect on what I saw. A small display showed a Canadian Aviator who flew Spitfires during World War II (WWII). His name was George “Buzz” Beurling, also known as “The Falcon of Malta”. This was very personal to me because my heritage is Maltese and I had heard stories from my father about the “Second Great Siege” of Malta during WWII. My father was an adolescent during the war and he assisted the RAF with their ground security, running out and capturing shot down enemy pilots. He survived being strafed and bombed which was a miracle because Malta was the most heavily bombed place in the world during the war.

Hell Island – By Dan McCaffery

I remember him telling me about a pilot who would go up and shoot down enemy planes like he was born in a fighter. I even found a book called “Hell Island” by Dan McCaffery that retold the stories of Canadian pilots who fought during the war. One story was very familiar and as I read it, I remembered the stories my father told me. I read it to him and he said that was the pilot he remembers and it was George Beurling. I was amazed for that day, history came alive for me and the great pride I had of a Canadian fighting for my parent’s survival and thanks to his and other Canadians, my family survived and that I am here today because of heroic actions of men like George Beurling.

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George “Buzz” Beurling – The Falcon of Malta

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George Beurling Memoirs from the Battle of Malta

The rest of the museum was so spectacular that I spent the entire day looking around and absorbing every detail. Looking back I arrived 15 minutes after it opened and left 15 before it closed. Tey had so many artifacts that showed Great Canadians doing extra ordinary deeds that I had to just slowly take in all that I saw and read. I cannot tell you everything that I saw, you just have to experience it yourself.

Or if you like, over a tea I can try to recount the wonderful stories of brave Canadians. From stories of the Cold war to the actions of Canadians in Vimy Ridge and Normandy, I am in awe with what those brave men and women did. The whole experience has made me reaffirm my gratitude to them and for their sacrifice. For without their sacrifice I would not be here today.  

Thank you, Merci to you all who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. I for one will never forget what you have done.  

Ailish Sinclair

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