Rebuilding the Dream

On a Sunday in the spring of 1991, I was watching a story on Mike Duffy's show, Sunday Edition about an old derelict sail boat called " CANADA " that a group of volunteers wanted to rebuild. At the time we were in the height of National Unity and Joe Clark was the Unity Minister. I was immediately inspired and came up with the idea of rebuilding the boat as a symbol of rebuilding the country, "REBUILDING THE DREAM CALLED CANADA". I was very determined that this promotion was the right one at the right time. I managed to convince our Member of Parliment, Paul Dick's secretary that I had to meet Joe Clark as soon as possible. She told me to go to Doctor Tuppers farm in North Gower on a Sunday and he would be there. A friend Andy Willett and I went and we not only met Joe Clark we met his wife Maureen McTeer, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, his wife Mila and their family's. I didn't think that I had enough time to discuss the concept so I gave Mr. Clark a letter asking for a meeting within a week or so. He stated that he was away the next week and I told him that I could meet with his secretary in advance. Within the week I had my meeting with his top adviser who seemed to resent the concept and never did bring the idea back to Mr Clark. The second part of the project was to produce a group song similar to the songs, "WE ARE THE WORLD" or "TEARS ARE NOT ENOUGH". David Lemay was a neighbour of mine and I knew that he had the ability and that he happened to have a recording studio in his basement. I approached him with the idea of producing a group song called; "REBUILDING THE DREAM CALLED CANADA". I told him that the song had to tell the story about the boat but you also had to think about the country. David was inspired , wrote most of the song himself and put together a team of nine singers. He did an amazing job in producing this very powerful song. I had managed to get plenty of media coverage about the boat on all of the TV networks, some more than once. So REGIONAL CONTACT came out and filmed the story about the boat and came to David's studio and filmed the recording of the song. The story was picked up and ran on Sunday Edition, which was national. How many recordings get that kind of attention? Howard Bertram and I did a radio interview at the CBC in the Chateau Laurier the day before Canada Day and they played the song. We went over to Parliament Hill where they were setting up for the next day. I asked one of the organizers if they could play the tape on Canada Day but he said that it wasn't possible they were totally booked. On Canada Day the group that I had named; " Ordinary Canadians ", performed the song in the park in Carleton Place. CBC came out and filmed it for the 6:00 pm news. Nine months later I received a letter from the NCC Canada Day committee inviting the group "Ordinary Canadians" to start off the evening performance on the National Stage at 6:00 pm. on Canada Day. What's the chances? The highlight of all of our careers. Two of the lead singers backed out two weeks before the event, they said that it would be a disaster and an embarrasment. I replaced them with two of the six back up singers and found two new back up singers that jumped at the chance to perform on the National Stage. The way I looked at it that we were given the chance of a lifetime and I had total faith in my group, the "Ordinary Canadians". I had one lady comment that you are certainly not ordinary. The Wednesday before Canada Day we all went down to the Hill for a sound check and a rehersal. CBC was there to do a story on us, David was interviewed. An ordinary group getting that much attention. The big day came, it was exciting we all had back stage passes and we met Mr. Dress Up, Marc Garneau, Rock Voisine and The Band. This little group from the Carleton Place area that only had performed in front of a few hundred people were about to perform in front of more than 100,000 people on the National stage on Canada Day. The 6:00 pm news was just about to be broadcasted from the Hill and we would be a part of it. The time came, Sandy Sharkey introduced the group. Out they came in a line, wearing the Canada Boat t-shirts and each holding their own microphones. David started off a little nervous on the first line but they had the best equipment in the country, a $200,000 back up mixer. The song was powerful and the group performed well. They did little Carleton Place and the whole country proud. I was in tears. The croud cheered. We had pulled off the chance of a life time. A while later David and I sent the song, video from Parliament Hill and a t-shirt to David Foster. We included a letter asking him to listen to the song and re-do it as a powerful motivational song for kids. We didn't hear back so I sent a second package and we got it back saying that they had received the first package and that he was busy for upwards to a year. A year went by and we didn't hear back so I decided to write Douglas Basset who owned CTV, Bayton Broadcasting. He had offered his support on the Canada Boat project in the past. He wrote back asking if David Foster had contacted us? I called his office and his secretary said that he would call back within the hour. He called and asked if I had Fosters phone number? I told him that I hadn't and he gave me the number of his recording studio in Hollywood California. I called and was told that he was on holidays at his home in Surrey B.C. I let it go. Two years later I was flipping channels on Sunday on TV and I came to Robert Schouler's Sunday morning church service in Garden Grove, California. He had his friend David Foster as a guest who was going to perform his latest song called " THE POWER OF A DREAM" that he had written and recorded for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics in the U.S.A. that was performed by Celine Dion. 
I video taped the song and brought it to my next Canada Boat meeting and one of my directors, David Evans said he got that song from you. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, there was certainly similarities. It doesn't matter. He did exactly what David and I had asked him to do. How could you get a more powerful song than that. Several years later David Lemay my neighbour that wrote, recorded and was the lead singer was shot and killed along with two others,while working at OCTranspo. His daughter sent all of the news media to me. They held a huge service at Scotia Bank Place, 7,000 people attended including Prime Minister Cretiean. They played a song for each one, David's song was written, recorded and sung by him. Several years later Valerie and I went to see Celine Dion at Scotiabank Place and we could only get third level seating. Part way through the performance I noticed that there were two empty rows beside the front of the stage just behind the arena boards. I said lets try and move down there. We were now 20 feet from Celine. No one asked us to move and I figure that they were her guest seats. Then she sang the song "THE POWER OF THE DREAM". What's the chances? Several years later I was invited to a meeting in Almonte where there was an office for the Special Olympics. They were looking for some promotional ideas. I told them that they needed a very motivational song and that I knew people that were capable of coming up with one. Then it hit me, the song was already written and no longer in use. What better song than "THE POWER OF A DREAM" We have now come full circle. Gary Strike

In 1992 the Separatists in Quebec were threatening to break up the country and separate from Canada. We were in the height of National Unity. That year I was the President of the Carleton Place Chamber of Commerce and already working on a project called "REBUILDING THE DREAM CALLED CANADA". The idea was to rebuild a derelict old sailboat that was the original built in 1896-1897 and registered with the name "CANADA". Rebuild the boat as a symbol of rebuilding the country, (see seperate story). In April, 1992 due to my concern and my patriotic nature I came up with a promotional idea that I believed would help to Unite this great country called Canada. The idea was called "HANDS ACROSS CANADA ", Canadians would be asked to join hands across the borders of the provinces and sign white ribbons in red ink to show their support for a strong and united Canada. It was to take place at 2:00 pm on July Ist on Canada Day. The ribbons and letters of support would be sent back to me and I would in turn present them to the Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney. This was  not an easy task. I asked for the support of the Chamber of Commerce and especially the help of the manager at the time, Jackie Cowlin. It was her that did most of the work. We had to first find a big map of the country and pin point the bordering towns. We had no idea how big or small that they were. After all back then we didn't have any computers or the town didn't even have a fax machine so Jackie had to send out letters to Mayors, Chamber of Commerces, hoping
that someone in the towns would respond. We even duplicated towns at the borders in case we were turned down or ignored. We needed an Ontario / Quebec
border no matter what so we sent letters to the Mayor of Ottawa, the Mayor of Hull, the Mayor of Alymer, the Mayor of Pembroke, the Mayor of Chapeau, the
Mayor of Hawksbury and the Mayor of Grenville Quebec. I made lots of phone calls from my home at night and I funded the total cost of the project , $300 out of my own pocket except for all of Jackie's time. We also had sent out a letter to the Canadain Chamber of Commerce to try and gain their support. They jumped on board and sent out letters of support to the Chamber of Commerces in the boardering towns.
Then we had to wait and hope for some responses to come in. The Mayor of Ottawa, Jacqueline Holtzman, the Mayor of Hull, and Alymer all turned us down.
The Queen was coming to Ottawa that Canada Day to celebrate her 40th Anniversary. No one said yes until two weeks before then we heard from the Mayor of Hawksbury, they wanted to do the project with the Town of Grenville Quebec. We had an Ontario / Quebec border. We cheered. Then we heard from Kenora,
Ontario, Falcon Lake and Falcon Beach, Manitoba. Then Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and Walsh and Irvine, Alberta. We had five provinces in a row that had responded that they would take part. At at least one border there were three levels of government present. I made a mistake and went to see the Queen in Ottawa and should have went to Hawksbury and Grenville. We received three white ribbons signed with red ink and letters of support. We had managed toconnect at least five provinces in a row including Quebec.
I wrote Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, offering to present the ribbons as a symbol of National Unity. His secretary kept putting me off. He was flying across the country trying to ward off a seperatist vote. The vote was No, the country could breathe easy. The threat was over for the time being. We did all that we could. I decided that the Prime Minister didn't deserve these very special symbols of National Unity so I decided to send or take them back to where they belonged to the people that had signed them back to Hawksbury and Grenville. Jackie, Peg Lang, my son Rob, Howard Bertram and I took the ribbon back. They closed off the bridge for a second time. The Mayor's town officials, Don Boudrois, the Deputy Prime Mininister and the Legions, met again on the center of the bridge and I presented them with their ribbon in a special engraved display case that the towns were to share. Forever joined together. I gave one of my Canadain Flag ties to Don Boudrois and he wore it on the opening day of Parliament. The presentation was covered by CTV.
Last year my wife Valerie found the two remaining ribbons and suggested that I present them back just prior to this July 1st., Canada Day, 2012, which marks the 20th. Anniversary of the original event. The Federal Municipalities of Canada were meeting in Saskatoon on June 1st., so I made arrangements for Deputy Mayor Ed Sonnenburg, to take theribbon in a display box and present it to Mayor Canfield, the Mayor of Kenora, Ont., which was matched up with, Falcon Beach / Falcon Lake, Manitoba.  I will be sending the remaining ribbon to the Town of Irvine and Walsh, Alberta, who was matched up with, Maple Creek, Sask., for them to share, thus completing the project, 20 years later, as a symbol of National Unity.

Yours Sincerely,
Councillor Gary Strike
Town of Carleton Place, Ont.


The Day Before the Referendum 

The day before the Referendum, I decided to go to the rally at the Museum of Civilization in Hull. I couldn't get any one to go with me but I felt compelled to go. 
I parked near the market area in Ottawa and proceeded to walk towards the old steel bridge over to the museum. Just before the bridge there was a stage set up outside where Dominic Darcy was playing music. I gave him a tape of our song,
"REBUILDING THE DREAM CALLED CANADA". It was my goal for the day to try and have it played at the event. He played it as I walked across the bridge following the tail end of the crowd. When I got to the museum I overheard a couple discussing the best way to get close or better still get in the museum because there were thousands of people and most stood outside of the museums main entry. I followed them in the cafeteria entrance and that was where the dignitaries were gathering including Prime Minister Jean Chretien. I talked to a security guard, told him that I had an important song that had to be played at the event and asked  him where should I take it. He said that it would have to be screened first but he would try and get it to someone. I couldn't do much better than that. In the process I had managed to become part of the receiving line. As the dignitaries walked by I shook their hands and was the last one to shake the Prime Ministers hand before he made his last speech appealing to Quebecors to vote no and stay a part of this great country Canada. I was standing on the stage back to the right in front of one of the large totem poles. His speech was short but he made a powerful appeal. When he had ended his speech, Madam Chretien walked in front of me and I handed her a tape of the song. She turned and shook my hand. My song never got played there and I was a little disappointed but I wondered later if my job was just to go shake his hand and just maybe give him energy, who knows? 
At Christmas time ever since I received a Christmas card from the Chretiens while they were in office.

Gary Strike