As Tourism Week begins, many Canadian province’s still restrict travel

Canada canoe

As Tourism Week in Canada kicks off, it’s still unclear where Canadians will be able to travel this summer. The American border remains closed until at least June 21, international travel restrictions are still being strictly enforced and some provinces still discourage visitors from other parts of the country.

Despite the uncertainty, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) says that vaccinations are the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Seeing our American neighbours and people from the U.K. already beginning to take vacations, the feeling is that it won’t be long before Canadians will join them.

However, before we all jet off to foreign locales, TIAC is asking Canadians to take a special pledge to support tourism in Canada. They want to drive more domestic tourism business to Canadian travel firms which have lost billions of dollars during the pandemic.

“We are calling on Canadians to take the 2021 Tourism Pledge to travel in Canada, when restrictions are lifted,” says Beth Potter, the President and CEO of TIAC in a release. “This is an invitation to come together as a country and support our local tourism destinations, businesses and employees.”

If Canadian consumers decided to shift two-thirds of their planned international holiday expenditures towards domestic tourism, it would make up for the estimated $19 billion shortfall currently facing the visitor economy, per a recent report by Destination Canada. It would also help sustain 150,000 jobs and accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector by one year.

“We understand that everyone is eager for some much-needed vacation time and we are calling on Canadians to plan their future travel within Canada,” said Marsha Walden, President and Chief Executive Officer, Destination Canada.

For now, that probably means staying in your home province, but things could start opening up as the summer progresses and more people are fully vaccinated.

Newfoundland & Labrador

The advisory council to Newfoundland’s premier filed a report last week that called on the provincial government to reopen  the province’s borders to the rest of Canada by July 1.

The committee recommends that until vulnerable groups in the province are fully vaccinated, visitors be tested for COVID-19 before arrival although they won’t have to quarantine. The next stage would be to re-open the Atlantic bubble then allow partially vaccinated Canadians to enter as of June 1, although they must present a negative COVID test before arrival.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, lockdown restrictions that have limited travel have been extended and the province’s premier has said they could last until at least June 1.

In one Global News report, tourism operators were pessimistic that this year’s tourism season would be worse than last summer when the Atlantic bubble partially saved their season.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King told CBC News he would announce reopening plans on Thursday.

“I think you will see our measures that will include testing coming into our province through all of our points of entry as an added level of protection for Islanders. As more and more of us get vaccinated, we can back our way out of that. That’s going to be part of the plan,” he said.

The premier said the province hopes to allow visitors from the Atlantic region “really soon” and from the rest of Canada in the later end of the summer season.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick is keen to welcome tourists back to the province, at least from the rest of Atlantic Canada.

“We are hoping to open the Atlantic Bubble in July to get the season started,” said Carol Alderdice, the President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick. “Our operators have been exceptional at implementing protective measures against the spread of COVID-19 for over a year and we are ready to greet our guests.”

Last year, the province introduced the NB Travel Incentive program which offered rebates for residents who travelled within the province.

The province has said the program will return this summer, but has released no further details.

“As long as all things continue to improve in relation to COVID-19, we will look forward to announcing the dates of the summer Explore NB Travel Incentive Program,” Morgan Bell, a communications officer with Tourism, Heritage and Culture told CBC News.

Quebec

The Quebec government is offering  discounted provincial park passes as well as subsidized activities and vacation packages to encourage local tourism.

“The pandemic has had negative consequences for tourism businesses. These initiatives are a way for the government to revive the industry,” Quebec’s Minister of Tourism Caroline Proulx told CBC News. “I honestly believe that we will have a better tourist summer, especially with the return of festivals.”

The province’s Explore Québec program  offers travel packages at a minimum of 25 per cent off along with other offers at Quebec Getaways.

Ontario

Canada’s largest province announced its reopening plan last week that sets June 14 to restart some activities that would allow a certain amount of tourist traffic to resume, with further restrictions being eased in July and a near return to normality in August. However, there’s concern that those dates aren’t set in stone as they are conditional on certain vaccination and caseload milestones being met.

The province’s border remains closed with neighbouring Quebec and Manitoba to non-essential travel until June 2, but there have been noises that it could be extended, possibly until the June 14 date that is part of the reopening plan.

Manitoba

The tourism picture for Manitoba this summer is unclear, but there’s some optimism that the province will beat back the third wave and gradually begin reopening, at least to local visitors.

Destination Canada projects the province’s tourism businesses will lose about $400 million this year, but that’s a best-case scenario if tourism is permitted by July. Things are bleaker if they remain closed until the end of the summer, reported CBC News.

Saskatchewan

Many provinces are modelling their reopening plans after Saskatchewan’s “road map,” which itself is inspired by the actions of well-vaccinated jurisdictions like Israel and the U.K.

As destinations and activities reopen throughout the summer,  Tourism Saskatchewan predicts a good summer ahead with about 75 or 80 percent of the activity it would see in a normal year.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel which is something I think the industry and public sees that, “ spokesperson Jonathan Potts told CKRM.  “If people continue to get vaccinated and things continue going in Saskatchewan’s favour, we could see a fairly normal summer this year.”

Alberta

Alberta is still battling its third wave of COVID infections, but premier Jason Kenney has said the provinces will soon outline its reopening plan.

“It’ll be a careful plan that will get us to a great Alberta summer as long as Albertans continue the huge momentum to get vaccinated,” he said.

In an interview with Global News, the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta’s Darren Reeder said he fully expects the province to reopen travel within the coming weeks, but doesn’t think it will see any international travellers.

He hoped that the provincial government would offer tax credits or vouchers to incentivize staycations in order to overcome that shortfall and the association would do its part to encourage Albertans to discover what their province has to offer

“There are things in your own backyard and adventure is something you create with your own ingenuity and your own creativity,” he said.

British Columbia

B.C. premier John Horgan has also promised a reopening plan this week which would outline under what conditions travel restrictions will be lifted.

Tourism Industry Association of B.C. chief executive officer Walt Judas told CBC that it wants restrictions lifted on non-essential travel that have ravaged the province’s tourism  industry.

Judas said the association wants provincial travel reopened this week, followed by increased interprovincial visitors and ultimately international tourists.

Yukon

Yukon has closed off its borders to domestic and international travel for much of the pandemic, but now its plan is to allow anyone who is fully vaccinated to visit and enjoy the territory’s immense beauty.

The world’s longest skating rink is not in Ottawa

LAKE WINDERMERE WHITEWAY

At 7.8 kilometres in length, the world’s longest skating rink is popularly believed to be the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, but it lost that record in 2008 when an 8.54-km stretch of the Assiniboine and Red rivers in Winnipeg was cleared for skating.

Winnipeg didn’t hold that record very long as a skating trail on Lake Windermere Whiteway at Invermere, B.C., took the title in 2013 for a route that extended almost 30 km.

Despite those competitors, Rideau Canal Skateway has since rebranded itself as the world’s “largest” skating rink.

 

Canadian human rights museum connects the Holocaust with today’s troubled world

A new and spectacular museum in the western Canadian city of Winnipeg teaches visitors about Canada’s own connections to the Holocaust and how the decisions we make today can have an impact on the human rights of others.

“Six million did not just happen out of the blue,” said Dr. Jeremy Maron, the curator of the Holocaust gallery of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. “It required a lot of individual actions and a lot of individual choices. We want our visitors to reflect on how their own actions and their own choices might contribute towards human rights, either in positive or negative ways.”

Opening its doors in 2015, the CMHR is an audacious structure of glass and steel that was the vision of one of the city’s greatest Jewish philanthropists, the late Israel Asper. He wondered why children from Winnipeg, a city with a sizeable Jewish community, and other Canadian cities had to leave the country to visit museums in the United States or Israel to learn about the Holocaust and was inspired to create a similar institution closer to home.

The idea quickly morphed from a Holocaust-specific museum into one about human rights as viewed through a Canadian lens. While Canada has an outstanding human rights record today, it’s not perfect and has plenty of dark stories of its own, including the treatment of its aboriginal people and how it interred foreign populations during both world wars. These and many other human rights themes are presented to visitors in interactive galleries that challenge them to question their own beliefs about how they think they and others should be treated.

The museum is one of only two Canadian national museums outside of the country’s capital of Ottawa, and the only one in Western Canada. Its Holocaust gallery features several fascinating artifacts that are connected to the personal stories of people who were caught up in the Nazi genocide.

”Presentation of first-hand experience is very important,” said Maron. “It can really root this historical atrocity that is something so big that it becomes abstract, Hearing a first-hand story can personalize it and make it real in some sense.”

“We try to bring individual stories to the forefront for visitors to make those individual connections and see some of the faces behind these mass numbers. Each of those six million is a particular individual who has a particular experience with a particular impact that happened to them and their families.”

One of the artifacts that Maron likes to highlight is a Yiddish poem that was probably written in the Radom ghetto in Poland on January 13, 1943, the date of one of the mass deportations from the ghetto to the death camps.

“It was donated to us by the poet’s son who found it in his family’s belongings long after the death of this father. The poem describes the conditions and the despair of the ghetto, but it also contains this sense of oblique hope for the continuation of the Jewish people, either in this world or the next.”

Maron also talks about the moving story of Sigi Wassermann who lost his parents in Auschwitz. He is a local survivor whose experience are told in the museum of being a child sent to Great Britain on the Kindertransport after Kristallnacht in 1938 before finally settling in Canada.

But possibly the most emotional story of all is that of the SS St. Louis, a passenger ship filled with Jews that the Nazis let sail before the outbreak of the war. The ship attempted to land in Cuba, but was refused entry, then was turned away from the United States and Canada before returning to Europe. Most of those who returned would later perish when the Nazis occupied its neighbours, although the lucky few who made it to Great Britain would survive.

Maron says there are some analogies to refugees fleeing today to Europe and North America from places like Syria and the museum’s Holocaust stories make visitors think about parallels in the world today.

“They were granted a means to leave safely that is different from a lot of refugees today whose very mode of fleeing is extremely dangerous right now, but what is the same is the lack of will of some countries to actually allow these refugees to dock and enter so the borders that were closed previously, remained closed.”

Making connections with the past and the present is something that the CMHR does well. One of the the themes that it examines in the Holocaust gallery is the abuse of state power and how the Nazis wielded it.

“The Nazis used the instruments of power to very quickly implement their racial and totalitarian policies. If a user is looking at this gallery, they are learning about that history in the context of Nazi Germany and the growth of the Nazi party in the 1920s that came to power in the 1930s. if they are doing this as part of the museum journey more broadly, they may very well pick up other connections to the theme of state power that they may recognize either elsewhere in the museum journey or make connections in their own mind about similar themes that they are thinking about.”

While some people think that the story of the Holocaust is complete, Maron thinks it will be a long time before we completely comprehend it, if ever, and galleries like the one he curates will always be changing to reflect new knowledge.

“I think more will be revealed in years to come because there are so many micro-histories. Whenever I go to a Holocaust conference, I’m always shocked that there will be a panel or papers on a particular aspect I had never thought about,” he said. “There’s always going to be more that we don’t know and that we’re uncovering, maybe some surprising links that we’ve never uncovered either through archives opening up or new discoveries by researchers. It might slow down a little bit once we no longer have first-hand voices, but I think it will always continue.”

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
https://humanrights.ca/

 

Photos: The beauty of Canada during the winter

As much as Canadians love to complain about the cold during the winter and try our hardest to escape somewhere warm during the darkest season, the truth is that we secretly love it. It is part of who we are.

The photos below, one from each territory and province, show the beauty of the nation when it is blanketed in white. Soon enough, the spring will come with the return of birdsong and the scent of flowers and we get to rediscover the beauty of Canada in another season. We will enjoy it while it lasts, but remember that winter will be back again and will greet it happily when it arrives.


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