Canada would like to apologize for all of the fuss its 150th birthday is going to cause this summer. Just to state it upfront we are, you know, sorry, eh? That’s because there will be pomp and circumstance on July 1 as Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of the nation’s Confederation.
From coast to coast and abroad there will be pancake breakfasts, street parties, parades, concerts and performances by countless homegrown artists at venues in communities of all sizes. There is a contest to choose the 150 most iconic Canadian brands. And there will be other celebrations as well, as companies and people alike wave the flag and show their pride. In short, it’s going to be Hoser Heaven. And you’re invited.
— Station16 Gallery (@station16mtl) May 14, 2017
It’s only fitting that the iconic Canadian brands, clothier Roots Canada—whose symbol is a beaver—has launched a “Be Nice” campaign to mark the big day with a contest, a corporate citizenship component, a limited edition apparel collection, local artists making over its windows and a social marketing push that includes a Snapchat filter. It even trademarked the word “nice” for the campaign, which aims to show that Canada’s nice guys (and gals) don’t finish last.
— Roots (@RootsCanada) May 14, 2017
Actress Kim Cattrall, a Canadian who grew up on Vancouver Island, sets the stage with a look at Canada’s congenial nature in this video:
She narrates a timeline of key events in the country’s history, such as the first gay marriage; welcoming planes in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 to Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador (as recounted in the Tony-nominated play, Come From Away); opening up our homes to refugees fleeing Syria; and celebrating Terry Fox, the one-legged runner whose Marathon of Hope in 1980 brought the country together—and continues to do so today—in the battle against cancer.
The video (which is also available in French) also touches on a number of events where “sorry” wasn’t good enough, including the often-deplorable treatment of Canada’s Indigenous people and the 1989 shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, where 14 students were targeted and killed by a male shooter simply because they were female.
— Roots (@RootsCanada) May 12, 2017
There’s also a cause marketing element to the campaign:
Help us reach our goal to raise $150,000 in support of WE Indigenous Youth Empowerment Programming. Join us in celebrating key moments and people that have helped define our nation and what it can mean to be nice. Support this nice cause by purchasing your nice™ button, 100% of the profits will be donated. We encourage all of Canada to #BeNice to create an even better next 150 years. Learn More: http://rts.cc/BT1430bawv3
— Roots (@RootsCanada) May 13, 2017
Cattrall, famed for starring as Samantha Jones in HBO’s Sex And the City, weighs in:
“‘Nice’ acknowledges 150 years of extraordinary Canadian historical events that challenged the status quo and brought change nationally and globally. We continue to redefine the word ‘nice’ as an active verb.”
James Connell, vice-president of e-commerce and marketing at Roots, acknowledges that celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday can be a challenge, particularly when it doesn’t necessarily recognize the country’s original inhabitants and underplays the treatment they’ve received since. That’s why he says it was important for Roots to acknowledge the country’s many First Nations people.
“It’s only fair and appropriate that we try to figure out how to both celebrate their contribution as well as recognize that there’s work that needs to be done in order to recognize their contribution in a bigger and better way, and that in the past they haven’t necessarily been treated fairly when it comes to their rights,” he told Strategy Online.
— Passport 2017 (@Passport2017) May 11, 2017
A big part of the Roots campaign, of course, is being able to show that you’re a “nice” Canadian (note the maple leaf period after “nice”) with a Canada Collection of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel for Canada’s 150th, including T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts and hats featuring maple leafs, beavers and, of course, hockey jerseys.
Roots is also running a related campaign asking people to nominate their friends and neighbours on social media who they believe are “Canada’s nicest person” by using the hashtags #BeNice and #RootsIsCanada:
Canadians are ‘nice’. We’re polite, friendly people that say sorry when you bump into us. But being nice is so much more. To celebrate Canada’s birthday and 150 years of being nice, we’re looking for Canada’s Nicest Person—an individual who makes a positive impact among their peers, within their community or for all of Canada.
— Roots (@RootsCanada) May 14, 2017
“Nice” may be a quintessentially Canadian characteristic but Roots is quick to note there’s much more to it. “Nice comes from strength. Nice takes guts. Nice is standing your ground when you’re right, acknowledging when you’re wrong and apologizing for your mistakes. Nice is celebrating your accomplishments and how you approach others,” the brand states.
Ten finalists will be posted on the Roots website for an online vote next month with the winner to be announced on June 20. The prize is a $10,000 gift to a charity of their choice. Nice, eh?
— Roots (@RootsCanada) May 7, 2017
— Renée Alexander is an actual (nice) Canadian who lives in Manitoba.