Is there taxpayer value in Canada’s search for lost ships?

“This is the moment for Canada to drop the nonchalance and be nerdy and proud.” -Kate Heartfield.

So they found Sir John Franklin’s ship 170 years after it, its sister ship and 129 men vanished in the Arctic while searching for the Northwest Passage. So what?

I mean, for years, Parks Canada has squandered how many millions of taxpayer dollars using the latest in underwater detection gear to find some rotting wreckage on the ocean floor. We already know what happened to Franklin and his men. Let’s move on!

That, I’m sure, was the response of some Canadians upon news of the discovery of the wreckage of HMS Erebus in September even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper thought it important enough to personally announce that the search, for Franklin’s flagship at least, had been successfully concluded.

Then there are those who feel the money was a poor allocation of priorities. As Ele Gibson wrote in the Times-Colonist (I’m quoting, not carping), “While we are spending to solve the puzzles of our past, we are cutting spending to find solutions for our future development, including research into medical, scientific and environmental initiatives…”

Negative though these viewpoints be, at least they’re tangible responses as opposed to those Canadians so selfimmersed that they don’t even care enough to be informed of current events let alone with issues of their Canadian birthright.

Where am I going with this? We who cared enough to fight to save the Kinsol Trestle from demolition faced these very arguments and apathy. But the Kinsol was saved and, today, it’s the crown jewel of the Cowichan Valley’s recreational attractions for residents and visitors. There’s nothing else like it on the continent. It attracts thousands of visitors each year. Yet we came within an ace of losing it. In South Wellington, we’re fighting the same battle, against an uncaring government, to save the last surviving structure of historical significance of Vancouver Island’s 80-year coal mining industry.

So, why should you and I give a tinker’s darn about finding relics of Sir John Franklin and company more than a century and a half later? For one, his was the most ambitious scientific expedition of its time, sponsored by the government of the mightiest nation on the face of the earth. They were out to find a shortcut

across the top of the world to Asia. This search for a sea lane through the Arctic had held the world’s imagination for centuries. It was the equivalent of our own race for the moon.

To try to put the Franklin expedition into its true historical context, I quote Ottawa commentator

CHRONICLES See IF WE DROP, Page 14 and former diplomat Harry Sterling (also in the T-C): “…The muted response of many Canadians to the discovery of the remains of one of Franklin’s lost ships is a sad reminder of the lack of interest concerning Canada’s history. Add to that the reluctance, especially in the education system, to inculcating a knowledge of our history in its evolution into a modern society.”

Despite that, he noted the potential for historical research to promote the study of current climate change in the Arctic:

“This…historic discovery [of Franklin’s ship] will clearly focus greater interest in the vast Arctic region and the role it has played in Canada’s own past history and the significant role it might play in the foreseeable future with unpredictable global consequences…

“This [discovery] could play a timely role in emphasizing the growing importance of the Arctic, not just for this country’s own future, but for the global community.”

And another Ottawa columnist, Kate Heartfield: “This is a great moment in Canadian history… This is the moment for Canada to drop the nonchalance and be nerdy and proud. We own this moment. Space is cool. Science is cool. History is cool.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If, through not caring, we fail those millions of men and women, mostly unsung, who built this Canada that we’ve inherited with their blood, sweat and tears, we not only fail them but we fail ourselves, and all those who follow because we’ve dropped the torch.

I rest my case, for today. As someone once said, the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.

www.twpaterson.com

Just Posted

Robert's column
Robert Barron column: Skyrocketing house prices a tragedy

North Cowichan councillor Rosalie Sawrie brought an interesting perspective to a discussion… Continue reading

Soaker hoses laid down over corn seedlings, soon to be covered with mulch, will see to the watering needs of the bed through any summer drought. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Investing in soaker hoses is money well-spent

No-till gardening has a distinct advantage during drought

Karl McPherson, left, and Mary Morrice are the new head coach and general manager, respectively, at the Duncan Dynamics Gymnastics Club. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Manager charts a new course for Duncan Dynamics

More recreational programs to join competitive teams

Cute but fierce! Timber moonlights as an attack kitty. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: Beware of Mr. Bite, the midnight attacker

Last week, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read