On Home Ice: How the Canada 150 Rink Shapes Our Community

By Sam Yee

On Thursday December 7th, the Lisgar Varsity Girls’ Hockey team attended the grand opening of the Canada 150 skating rink on Parliament Hill.

Among the list of speakers during the opening ceremony were Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage; Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities; Eugene Melnyk, Owner of the Ottawa Senators; First Nations and Inuit leaders, including Grand Chief Verna Polson of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg Nation Tribal Council, Algonquin Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabeg of Quebec, and Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami; and two Inuit throat singers.

After Elder Commanda blessed the rink, the team participated in the first skate ever on Parliament Hill while listening to the Tragically Hip on loudspeakers.

As Amy Falkner, left-winger on the girls’ hockey team, put it, “There’s nothing more Canadian than that!”

My Take

That several Indigenous people were invited to speak at the opening of a “Canada 150 Rink” (built on unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory, no less), can be seen as somewhat ironic after all the controversy this past year over Canada 150 being “a celebration of Indigenous genocide.” However, the rink was wholeheartedly welcomed by the Anishinaabeg people, as displayed by Elder Claudette Commanda’s blessing during the opening ceremony.

On the other hand, as you may have heard, this rink will cost the Government of Canada $7 million in taxpayers’ money to maintain from Dec. 7 to Feb. 28. Unsurprisingly, the project has met with significant opposition from those who feel that other causes are more worthy of that kind of funding, but

Emika Morris, co-captain of the girls’ hockey team, when asked if she thought this rink was a waste of money said, “a lot of the money could have been spent elsewhere, but since it’s being donated to a community afterwards, it seems like less of a waste. Seven million is still a lot of money though.”

That $7 million could have gone towards some of the most pressing issues in our country today, like providing better support, resources, and education for Indigenous communities in Canada. But instead, it was used to build a skating rink in an effort to extend the Canada 150 celebrations that for most people, lost their meaning after July 1st, or which for many Indigenous people, had never carried any positive meaning. Why, I wondered, did we bother coming to the opening of a “Canada 150 Rink”?

And then it hit me.

This rink is not just another celebration of Canada 150 or a sinkhole for taxpayers’ money. It’s a symbol of community.

During her opening speech, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, spoke of how this rink will bring people together from coast to coast and all over the world to celebrate a communal love of winter pastimes, including (but not limited to) hockey and ice skating.

Whether one identifies as Canadian, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, or another nationality, anyone can come to this rink to spend time with others who share a common interest. Internationally, nationally, and even locally – right here at Lisgar, this idea holds true.

The camaraderie on the girls’ hockey team that has been developing over the course of this season is a great example of this. In spite of possessing different skill levels, or being in different grades, we all come together as a team because of a love for the game we all share. That’s what it means to be part of a team, of a community and that’s what this rink represents.

Although I’m not a huge fan of the name “Canada 150 Rink” (it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue) or the huge price tag, symbols like this rink are important cultural unifiers, as they inspire people to come together to celebrate their similarities, rather than to focus on their differences.

There are still more important causes that really would have benefited from $7 million (or a fraction of it, for that matter), but all things considered, the Canada 150 Rink ultimately fulfills its purpose of celebrating our nation’s culture while teaching us the true value of community and sport.