While the travelling show in a trailer showcased many of the medals Canadians have won for military and civilian service, the real focus of the exhibit is to tell the stories of those Canadians.
“That’s really what an honours system is about,” said Sean Pierce, who was travelling with the exhibit that will tour Canada for the next two years. “It’s about sharing the stories of the Canadians who have won medals and trying to create good role models in society.”
The exhibit, called ‘It’s an Honour’, stopped in Hay River on Aug. 22.
The mobile museum is an extension of an exhibit put on in Ottawa by Governor General David Johnston. After viewing the show there, medal recipient and philanthropist Don Taylor decided it should be taken on the road and he funded the endeavour.
While Taylor’s original desire was to see the trailer visit every school in Canada, Pierce said that would take over a generation and the tour has been limited to two years.
“We’re really trying to go places where it would be harder for people there to get to Ottawa,” he explained, adding that Hay River definitely fits the bill.
While the hub was the tour’s fourth stop before moving on to Yellowknife, the official launch will be held in Calgary in September.
Part of the Governor General’s mandate is to promote education and Canadian culture and pride across the country, and ‘It’s an Honour’ will attempt to knit together the further-flung regions of Canada.
While the exhibit was only open for one day in Hay River, a few people made it out to the parking lot at Princess Alexandra School where it was set up.
“The trailer was pretty impressive,” said Valerie Hiebert-Pollard, who, although growing up in Pine Point and Hay River, was visiting from Cold Lake, Alta. “I liked the history bits and how many of the medals had been awarded to regular Canadians.”
She said she saw the trailer as she was walking by with family, but was considering bringing her nephew and nieces back later that evening to see the exhibit.
Pierce said the variety of individuals coming to the show has been astounding everywhere it has been so far, despite it being somewhat targeted at schoolchildren.
“Lots of people are coming in and then bringing others back to come see,” he said. “And lots of people are coming in with their own stories to tell.”
Beyond the overall positive reception, Pierce said he hopes people walk away from the exhibit with a better understanding of the Canadian honours system, an appreciation for the stories of the people who have served Canada in one way or another, and the knowledge that several of the awards are given to honourees nominated by their fellow citizens.
“That’s really important,” he said. “That there are a number of awards for which you can nominate people you know who have really made a difference, and it doesn’t have to be the government coming in and recognizing something extraordinary.”
Overall, the exhibit is meant to demonstrate how ordinary Canadians can rise above their daily lives to be extraordinary.
Hiebert-Pollard said she was moved by some of the stories and saw their significance beyond the medals themselves, explaining, “It inspires you to look around and help people out if there’s a need.”
— Sarah Ladik