Feature Story                                                                                          Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Rolling Out Rideau

Travelling exhibit features Canada's greatest medals of honour

Story by Mark Lewis. FVTH/Photos submitted

Two Royal Reserve foot guards welcome visitors to the It's an Honour interactive display that was in Chilliwack last week. Below, Sydney Crosby's 2013 playoff jersey hangs next to Julie Payette's ISS suit.


istory met technology in Chilliwack last Sunday when the It's An Honour Tour, tugged their big black rig through a blinding snowstorm and rolled up safe and sound at Chilliwack Middle School.


Even though school was cancelled Monday, François Gernier, It's An Honour tour manager, told the Voice inclement weather in Chilliwack didn’t faze the team and they were open for business.


The elaborate roadside attraction houses a variety of hands-on and touch-screen exhibits including interpretive panels, the Victoria Cross and the Order of Canada medals as well as fascinating items all aimed at giving people a taste of the real Rideau Hall.


The tour is actually the brainchild of Calgary entrepreneur and philanthropist Don Taylor.


Taylor was told at the time, that it was a good idea, but there was no budget to take the show on the road.


His response was that if they could come up with a "reasonable figure and a good game plan", then he would pay for it.


That's how the tour began.


It's not a cheap tour either. Grenier gives examples of the tour’s daily budget with things like ferry rides that costs $5/foot for vehicles that size and heating bills.


"When we were in Alberta, and started into the -30C temperatures, we had to let the generator run all night so that it was warm in the morning. So, there you go, $300 just for heating at night and nobody is here," he said.


But Tuesday was a different story. There were loads of people.


"Today was a great day. All of the students from Chilliwack Middle School showed up so we were close to 200. We had about 8-10 classes come through," said Grenier." Last week, in Port Moody, I gave 14 classes tours in one day, roughly about 400 kids that came out, plus that day we added in another 100.


Grenier, who is bilingual, also gives the French Immersion tours.



François Gernier enjoys teaching kids about Rideau Hall and speaking with veterans who drop by the exhibit.


"It's a great opportunity to for them to learn a little about our history and practice their French at the same time," he said.


Gernier gives students a ten minute tour and then leads them through a scavenger hunt where they search in the exhibits for the answers to questions.


"I give them a sheet of paper and they have 20 questions that they have to answer. It's a really great learning tool. It's interactive with all of the questions, so I think they learn without trying," he said.


Visitors will also find an iPad station shaped like the Order of Canada medal.


Behind the main showcase window lay a variety of objects, including hockey star Sydney Crosby's 2013 playoff jersey.


"It's featured here because we all know that he's involved with the Tim Horton kids and the Youth in Sports Association in Nova Scotia and he was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal and he's a good ambassador and represents us very well."


Among other items is a space suit worn in the International Space Station by Order of Canada recipient, Julie Payette. A Steve Nash basketball is the apple of Grenier's eye.


"Actually, I'm going to try to keep it and after the tour and I'm going to ask for it," he said.


Grenier says they were visited by veterans in all of the towns they visited. Even famed Royal Air Force pilot Stocky Edwards showed up but due to the inclement weather in Chilliwack it was a little slow.


"We meet tons of people. All kind of recipients from the Order of Canada and Courage Awards," says Grenier.


The tour started last July in Regina then crisscrossing Manitoba, Saskatewan and Alberta, stopping at events on Canada Day, while staying ahead of the wintry weather, before starting in BC from December to March. They even skipped up to Northwest Territories.


Gernier, who joined the tour in September, says team members can travel back home every six weeks but he bypassed the trip home because BC weather is nicer than Quebec.


"I just didn't feel like going into -30°C temperatures and I stayed in Victoria. It was much better," he said laughing.


See more photos below.


Related Links

• For more information about the It's An Honour Tour, visit the web site here.

• Learn more about Canadian honour medals here.

• Nominate someone you think deserves an award for their work in the community here.




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