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Opinion: Celebrating Saskatchewan's heritage to enhance our future

MLA Warren Michelson's weekly column
Warren Michelson

The Honourable Gene Makowsky, Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport has declared February 18th - 24th, 2019 as Heritage Week in Saskatchewan. The week aims to celebrate and raise awareness about the province’s unique past, and how that impacts our future as individuals and as a province. Our heritage goes far beyond old buildings, history books and dusty articles from the past. Our heritage is so important that we have a Crown agency, the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation, to foster conservation of heritage resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The Foundation invests in communities across the province through heritage property grant programs.

The Heritage Fair program is one of the initiatives of Heritage Saskatchewan, a non-profit organization funded through SaskCulture Inc. Participating as a judge and presenting an award at the annual Moose Jaw Heritage Fair is always a rewarding experience. The Grade 4 to 8 students put a lot of thought, effort and enthusiasm into their projects. They choose their own topic related to history or culture, often with a personal connection, and put together a visual display, written report and oral presentation. These students have grasped the benefit of celebrating heritage.

Heritage Saskatchewan sees heritage as a valued and dynamic legacy that contributes to our sense of identity, creates an understanding of our past, is used to build communities in the present, and informs our choices for the future.  Heritage goes beyond past history to being “Living Heritage” which builds an inclusive, cohesive, vibrant and sustainable heritage community.

Another important initiative is the Saskatchewan Index of Wellbeing (SIW). This is a resource that expands our understanding of how well our communities and citizens are faring beyond the economic measures of the Gross Domestic Product. The SIW measures eight areas such as time use, democratic engagement, education, and community vitality, that allow us to monitor changes in quality of life and wellbeing for our citizens, and provides community-based organizations, all levels of government, businesses and citizens with the evidence required to inform policies, decisions and actions.

Heritage Saskatchewan is excited about the “2019 Heritage Forum” happening this Thursday in Regina, with some very notable speakers. The focus will be on factors impacting wellbeing in Saskatchewan.

We see dedicated local organizations and individuals improving our quality of life through heritage initiatives. Our local museums, the Western Development Museum, the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery, and Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village, have found very creative ways to enrich our lives through the preservation of historical artifacts. The Moose Jaw Heritage Advisory Committee provides the City with policy advice and recommendations on matters regarding our heritage properties. We are fortunate to have retained many distinct heritage features in our city.

Entities that have become part of the fabric of our community like the Festival of Words, long-serving service groups, the ANAVETS and the Royal Canadian Legion, and even our Moose Jaw and District Sports Hall of Fame provide heritage experiences that add colour to our lives, and influence our future for the good.  
While we celebrate Heritage Week this week, I would encourage you to mark May 9 on your calendar as you’ll see an inspiring example of the benefits of celebrating heritage if you stop by the Heritage Fair at the Western Development Museum.

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