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  • The Northern Lights

Jessica, Preston | July 5, 2021

Who doesn’t love the Heritage Minutes? From advances in neurosurgery (“I can smell burnt toast!”) to the invention of basketball (“But I need these baskets back!”), these little 1-minute commercials have been teaching Canadians about our country’s history since the early-1990s. While we still love the classics in all their hokeyness, the more recent releases – with well-written scripts, beautiful cinematography, and more inclusive storytelling – are really worth a watch.

This Canada Day, celebrate great Canadians by watching five of our favourite recent Heritage Minutes, and then delve a little deeper with the following books available from Idea Exchange:

Jazz legend Oscar Peterson is the subject of the latest Minute, where we see his rise to fame from a working-class Montreal neighbourhood. You can read about Peterson’s life and career in his own words in his autobiography, A Jazz Odyssey.

The Lucy Maud Montgomery Minute is absolutely stunning, with gorgeous shots of PEI and a script taken from Montgomery’s own journals. You can read more of Montgomery’s thoughts in The Complete Journals of L.M. Mongtomery: The PEI Years, 1889-1900.

The Minute dedicated to Inuit print artist Kenojuak Ashevak was the first to also be released in a third language, Inuktitut (watch it here). Kenojuak by Jean Blodgett provides information about Ashevak’s life and artistic process, as well as photos of her work.

This Minute, released for National Aboriginal Day in 2016, follows the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack and is narrated by his sister, Pearl. That same year, Gord Downie released a concept album about Wenjack called Secret Path, and also collaborated with artist/author Jeff Lemire to release the story as a graphic novel.

The Minute honouring civil rights activist Viola Desmond was released in early-2016. In December 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that Desmond would be the first Canadian woman to be featured alone on a bank note. It may just be a coincidence, but perhaps we have this Heritage Minute to thank for the subject of our $10 bill! For more about Desmond, check out Viola Desmond: Her Life and Times by Graham Reynolds.

Which is your favourite Heritage Minute? Tell us in the comments below!