Three students from Bradford District High School recently took the top spots in the Simcoe County Historical Association’s (SCHA) Andrew Hunter Award for excellence in essay writing on a topic in Canadian history.
All three winners wrote essays about Quebec’s Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. Abiishan Nanthakumar won first place, Katie Jung won second place and Clare McCormick placed third.
Nanthakumar found his experience of researching and writing his essay made him appreciate living in Bradford at this point in history. Quebec’s cultural change made him feel blessed for how culturally diverse Bradford already is, with people coming from various backgrounds.
“Although the impacts of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec deepened my connection and understanding of the country, it mostly deepened my connection to my community,” he said. “One of the major changes during the Quiet Revolution was when the Catholic Church lost complete control over the province, everyone started to have their own beliefs, which caused the province to become more culturally diverse, similar to how Bradford is today.”
He went on to say, “Many community events take place in Bradford for community members to gather and spend time together. Some examples of events that take place in Bradford include Carrot Fest, Pumpkin Fest, Santa Claus Parade, etc. Also, many cultural events, such as Eid and Diwali, are being celebrated and recognized.”
SCHA coordinator John Merritt praised the students for taking an interest in history.
“It’s important for young people to engage with and learn about history because it’s an important part of understanding the world around you — why things are the way they are,” he said. “Understanding the histories of the societies and communities we live in helps make us informed and engaged members of those communities.”
Echoing Merritt's sentiment, Nanthakumar said, “Even though the Quiet Revolution occurred in Quebec, it deepened my feeling of connection and understanding because it allowed me to learn more about those who have contributed towards a positive change. It also made me think about what I can do to positively shape the future since everyone has the potential to make a difference.”
In writing about the Quiet Revolution, Nanthakumar learned about the economic advancements made by Hydro-Quebec.
“It made me think of how Bradford can also start making some economic changes to use more clean and sustainable energy,” he said. “Even though Bradford isn’t as large as Quebec, we can be mindful of how we use energy and learn the importance of energy conservation and sustainability.”
McCormick said entering the contest was a way of challenging herself to write her best work. Her interest in history was ignited by her teacher, Mr. Devine, and researching for her essay deepened her understanding of Canadian history.
“I learned so much about Quebec, somewhere I previously knew very little about. I gained lots of knowledge on past government policies and political controversies,” she said. “I now feel like I understand a lot more about the country I live in and how it got to the way it works today.”
Each winner received a cash prize as well as a copy of The History of Simcoe County, written by Hunter, the award’s namesake. Hunter was an early historian of Simcoe County and a co-founder of the SCHA. His book was one of the earliest local histories to be published in Ontario.
The SCHA will be accepting nominations for the next award recipient throughout the current academic year. Interested teachers can contact the SCHA for more information at [email protected].
Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, storyteller, and playwright. She blogs on her website, rosiewrites.com.