Nova Scotia Heritage Day was celebrated on Monday.
This is the third year the province has marked this statutory holiday that occurs on the third Monday in February. Among its purposes is to provide Nova Scotians with a holiday between New Year’s and Easter.
It’s not exactly a holiday for everyone. The Pictou County Weeks Crushers utilized the afternoon on Monday for a Maritime Junior Hockey league game that was re-scheduled due to earlier weather conditions. It was also an opportunity to introduce the four most recent recipients through the Scott Weeks Bursary Program: Evan MacLennan, Blair Dewtie, Alex Bonaparte and Mack Derraugh.
The New Glasgow Karate Club did not take the day off, resuming its training at its location upstairs at the New Glasgow Fire Hall.
Nova Scotia Heritage Day is also an opportunity to honour some person or group of significance.
Viola Desmond, an African Nova Scotian business woman from Halifax who challenged racial segregation at a film theatre in New Glasgow in 1946, was so recognized when the holiday was first observed in 2015.
Joseph Howe, a journalist and champion of representative democracy in Nova Scotia, was cited in 2016.
Mi’kmaq culture and the accomplishments of its people were recognized this year to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday.
Future holidays have also been designated. They include Mona Louise Parsons in 2018 to mark the centenary for the enfranchisement of women in Nova Scotia and folk artist Maud Lewis in 2019.
Africville will be celebrated in 2020 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Africville apology and to honour National Africville Historic Site.
Edward Francis Arab, the grandson of the first Lebanese immigrants to Nova Scotia, will be honoured in 2021, while the Grand Pre National Historic Site has been designated in 2022 on the 10th anniversary of its becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site which also commemorates the Acadians of Minas Basin and their deportation in the mid-18th century.
Memories of these people and events are not entirely pleasant ones.
Desmond’s struggle preceded vindication in her lifetime and an ultimate triumph that occurred after her passing.
Many residents and leaders of Africville have long since passed before the apology. Some will not be with us for the Heritage Day designation.
The atrocities inflicted on Acadians and Mi’kmaq people are many, the pain is deep and lasting and atonement for them will be an eternal journey.
For many of us, Monday was a welcome holiday. For all of us, may Nova Scotia Heritage Day be remembered with abiding reverence and hope for the future.