By Robert Hawkes

Many gathered at the Inner Harbour on New Year's Eve for great music and a spectacular fireworks show. The event marked the beginning of 2017, Canada's 150th year of Confederation, and was part of celebrations from coast to coast to coast. So how was James Bay involved in Canadian confederation, and how can you and your family celebrate Canada 150?

Statue of Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken outside Helmcken House near the Royal BC Museum. Photo by R. Hawkes

On July 1, 1867, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and what are now Quebec and Ontario, joined to form the Dominion of Canada. British Columbia joined the Confederation a few years later, on July 20, 1871. Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken (1824-1920) of James Bay played a central role, first in negotiating the union of Vancouver Island with British Columbia, and subsequently the terms for British Columbia to join Canada. The very accomplished Dr. Helmcken was also the founding President of the British Columbia Medical Association.

The terms that Dr. Helmcken negotiated included completion of the railway from coast to coast. As part of your celebration of Canada 150, why not visit Helmcken House, preserved next to the Royal BC Museum, and view the statue of Dr. Helmcken?

The IMAX film, Rocky Mount Express, tells the inspiring story of how the national railway was completed through the Rocky Mountains. It will be showing again in summer 2017 as part of the Victoria IMAX Canada 150 celebrations ().

Canada's National Parks and National Historic Sites administered by Parks Canada have free admission throughout 2017. You can get your free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass online (), or in person at a National Park kiosk. Scroll down this same web page to enter a contest to win a Parks Canada trip - grand prize is a 7 day trip to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland.

Why not use Canada 150 as a reason to learn some new activities, and get more physically active? Participaction has developed a 150 Playlist and are offering great prizes as incentives to track your activities (). From tag to lawn bowling, table tennis to gymnastics, they have activities for all ages and fitness levels.

Library and Archive Canada have a project showing you what happened on each day of the year (). A host of other organizations and government departments have Canada 150 events planned. On social media use #Canada150 to search for events.

The local group, Spirit of 150 Victoria (), has plans for performers, vendors, displays and more at the Inner Harbour from June 21 to July 1.

Whether you view 2017 as an opportunity to celebrate Canadian accomplishments, or a time to reflect on where as a country we have fallen short, let's all make 2017 a memorable year. We can each resolve to do our part to make Canada an even better place to live, and a more just and inclusive society.