In 2011 Quebec filmmaker Dominic Poliquin made a spoof of a Heritage Minute ad that featured a gay Mountie proposing to his partner in the Armed Forces. Now he’s released another celebrating marriage equality, this time showing the story of a lesbian couple:
This is the third part in my anti-racist feminist analysis of Canada’s Heritage Minutes ads. Click here for Part I or Part II.
While not all Canadian kids of the 80s and 90s can tell remember the name of the guy who screened new designs for Canada’s flag, or the one who made the woman smell burnt toast when he poked her brain, most of us remember at least something from the Heritage Minutes, as indicated by this video:
Heritage Minutes have become the subject of acting impressions, high school history classes, and even drinking games. And they’ve provided great source material for political satirists and other artists looking to comment on Canadian culture and identity. Here are a few of my favourite take-offs that define “A Part of Our Heritage” in creative new ways:
In my last post I wrote about how Canadian Heritage Minutes talked about (white) women’s history. I did a quick calculation based on Wikipedia’s list of the ads and estimate that the number of ads featuring women was about 22%. So not amazing but not insignificant.
Where we get into more problematic areas are the Heritage Minutes that feature people of colour, particularly those dealing with First Nations history.
Heritage Minutes on Race
But let’s start with some more positive examples. In this first one, a man tells a First Nations legend to his (I’m guessing) granddaughter. While the production values are about at the level of an original series Star Trek episode, it nevertheless is one of the few Heritage Minutes that is actually told in the voice of a First Nations person:
Most Canadian kids of the 80s and early 90s will remember the “Part of Our Heritage” ads produced by Charles Bronfman’s CRB Foundation that seemed to run almost non-stop. As much as we enjoy mocking them, we learned from them. We learned why the Bluenose is on the dime (it beat the US in a race), that Winnie the Pooh was named after Winnipeg, and that a Canadian invented basketball by suggesting cutting a hole in the bottom of a basket to save going up the ladder to fetch the ball.
I can’t remember exactly what exactly triggered it but the other day I was prompted to re-watch the ads on YouTube. I noticed a lot of things I hadn’t thought about when I was 7 or 8 and thought I’d take a post or two to do a little bit of retrospective analysis. I realized Heritage Minutes didn’t just teach us Canadian history factoids: they presented certain views of race and gender that occasionally challenged but more often reinforced popular stereotypes.
Heritage Minutes on Women
I’ll start with the Heritage Minutes that looked at white women’s history, because they’re actually fairly good. My favourite of all of them is the story about how women attending medical school faced harassment: Read more