“Heritage Minutes” are back after a seven-year hiatus with the story of the long, eventful life of former slave and Canadian war hero Richard Pierpoint.
The Historica-Dominion Institute has restarted the tradition of 60-second spots on history with funding from the federal government for the commemoration of the War of 1812.
The HDI is showing the new minutes, and a selection of classics, at The Royal theatre in Toronto on Monday. Canadians in other parts of the country can watch the new commercial on TV starting Monday, October 15, 2012.
“The short answer of why we haven’t made them before now is they cost a lot of money,” said Historica-Dominion Institute President Anthony Wilson-Smith. “We also now feel we have a minute worth doing. In general, we look for ground-level stories of individuals doing remarkable things that tell you a story on a bigger level.”
Richard Pierpoint: The Canadian war hero
Richard Pierpoint was born in Bondu (now Senegal), captured and sold to a British officer in the U.S. as a slave at the age of 16 in 1760. He fought for the British in the American revolutionary war and then came to Upper Canada as a free man.
When the Americans invaded in 1812, men and women were lucky to live into their early 40s, but he was 68 years old and wanted to fight. He asked permission to form a regiment of “coloured” men, which was initially met with lukewarm enthusiasm, said Wilson-Smith.
“They don’t even give him permission as much as they say, kind of ‘whatever,’ and he goes out and finds other black former slaves, and the sons of slaves, and they formed an all-black regiment that fights for the British, on the Canadian side,” said Wilson-Smith.
After the war, Pierpoint wanted to leave the land he fought for. As a soldier he was eligible to receive a tract of treed land, but he petitioned the government for passage back to Bondu instead.
“That Your Excellency’s Petitioner is now old and without property; that he finds it difficult to obtain a livelihood by his labour; that he is above all things desirous to return to his native country,” he wrote.
His request was denied and he lived out his life on his land near Fergus, Ont.
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Canadians are enthusiastic about Heritage Minutes—but many aren’t eager to see a minute made about gay marriage.
The Historica-Dominion Institute commissioned an Ipsos Reid poll of 3,900 Canadians about their views on the heritage minutes of the past and potential new spots. Eighty-nine per cent said they would like to see more heritage minutes produced.
While 82 per cent said they would be interested in seeing a heritage minute on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and 80 per cent said they’d like to see a minute on Terry Fox, only 46 per cent said they’d like one on gay marriage.
Who would you like to see the subject of the next Canadian minute?
With renewed interest in the commercials, comes tough decisions.
Who will be the subject of the next Canadian ‘Heritage Minute’?
A recent poll asked participants who they would like to see star in a new heritage minute, Wayne Gretzky (44%) and William Shatner (40%) got the most positive ratings—beating out young Canadian heartthrobs Justin Bieber (9%) and Taylor Kitsch (7%).
What do you think? Tell us who you think is most-worthy of a TV spot.