On July 1 – Canada Day 2010 – residents of Uxbridge Township assembled at a local park to celebrate the nation’s 143rd birthday. Hundreds settled in for food, refreshments, amusements and, of course, the evening’s annual fireworks display. Wedged into the evening’s slate of activities was the annual announcement by the Uxbridge Times-Journal newspaper of the “Citizen of the Year.” T-J reporter Don Campbell invited several dignitaries to the stage – including MP Bev Oda, MPP John O’Toole, Mayor Bob Shepherd – and finally the recipient … Ted Barris.
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Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
Most of the 2011 recipients are veterans. Ted Barris, a civilian, also received the commendation.
About Ted Barris
- October 24, 2013:
- November 7, 2013:
It began innocently enough. I wanted to mail some postcards home. I’d done the hard part – composing some thoughts and finding the addresses. I’d even discovered that postage stamps were available in tobacco stores here. So I searched one out and asked for “francobollo” in my best, fractured Italian. But the tobacconist waved his hands. They didn’t sell stamps anymore. I’d have to go to the post office. There, I found what I thought I needed – wickets, line-ups and clerks – until I reached the front of the line. “No. No,” the clerk said. He too was waving his hands at me, as if I was contagious. And he shouted at me, “You need ticket!” “Oh, a first-come first-served system like a bakery,” I thought. “I can do this.”
Outside the restaurant in Catania, Sicily, the young man and woman were listening to my conversation with Harry Watts. They overheard us talking about the liberation of their country, Italy. What made the moment rather special was that standing right in front of the young couple was one of the thousands of men who had accomplished that extraordinary feat, 70 years ago this summer. But the young couple seemed perplexed. “We thought the Americans liberated our country,” the woman said. “No,” Harry Watts said politely, but firmly, “this part of your country was liberated by Canadians.”
A veteran friend of mine and I happened to be comparing notes about an upcoming overseas trip we’ll be taking together. We were itemizing some of the clothing he might need for the climate where we’ll be travelling. I reminded him about the possibility of rain at night and the likelihood of warm temperatures in the daytime. I used some reliable advice: “Pack layers,” I suggested, “so you can add or subtract as needed.” “Why do you think I take several days to pack?” he pointed out. “I like to plan these things.” “So that’s the secret,” I kidded him. “You take almost as many days to pack as we will be travelling.”
I could hear it before I could see it. It sounded a bit like a strong wind blowing through the trees. But it was a constant white-noise sound. Then I could feel it. The earth beneath our feet seemed to vibrate. Not an earthquake, but as I walked onto the wilderness bridge, I could feel it being pounded. The force of surging water seemed to rattle the steel and stone of the structure to its core. I stood there at the centre of the bridge spanning the river where it pours over a large drop known as Victoria Falls and I marvelled at Nature. “This is as close as I’d ever want to get to a tsunami,” I suggested to a one of my travelling partners. “What power.”
I guess because they demand the greatest attention on the world stage or occupy the most broadcast time and newspaper space, we tend to pay closest attention to national political figures when they speak. When, for example, Sir Wilfrid Laurier said, “The 20th century belongs to Canada,” or Pierre Elliot Trudeau said, “Just watch me,” we remember the statement and the speaker. We don’t tend to remember, however, what Toronto Mayor Allan Lamport said about the way his city grew and prospered. “No city ever became great,” he said, “without a subway.”