City & Politics, History, Planning

Regina’s heritage at risk

It has been a somewhat depressing few months to be a history buff in Regina. A number of historical and heritage-filled buildings in the city have been given the cold shoulder by those who operate them, with a couple buildings being put on the chopping block.

One-hundred-and-one-year-old Connaught School doesn’t have much time left before the Regina Board of Education closes it. With a number of structural and foundational issues affecting the school, the Board has said it would be too expensive to fix them and thus should be demolished. Maybe if those issues had been addressed when they first appeared four to five years ago, it wouldn’t be so expensive to repair.

The school’s only hope now is in the efforts of the RealRenewal/Save Our Connaught group, which needs to do enough to convince the powers that be that the school is worth saving.

The Royal Canadian Legion has had to temporarily close its building downtown, as it goes through some major renovations to shrink its physical footprint and ensure it survives into the future to continue serving the veterans of this community.

While the plan is to re-open after the renos are complete, it is still a shame the doors have to be closed in the first place. No tours can be given to interested people who may walk in off the street or to classes of school children. Interest to return may wane for those who came to socialize regularly once the doors do re-open.

But with a remodelled inside, hopefully this can partially attract new members or even those looking for a beer on a weeknight.

Another military heritage building has been given one more year to live, unless a financial benefactor can be found to help it. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), located next door to the armoury on Elphinstone Street, is slated to close next June. This myopic decision was made by the Department of National Defence, which decided putting money into an old heritage building isn’t worth it anymore.

That’s a shame, as two milestones are coming up which the building and its members can help celebrate and remember. The first is next July, which is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, which saw 600,000 Canadians enlist and which saw 60,000 perished in the fighting.

The second milestone is in roughly 2017-18, when the building itself will celebrate 100 years. These are two important historical milestones which, unfortunately, the members and the public may not get to celebrate.

It’s too bad – but not surprising – that a benefactor or two has not stepped forward to potentially help save Connaught and the RUSI buildings. Obviously in this business-focused city, if it’s not bringing in piles of cash, it doesn’t matter. To paraphrase the movie Casablanca, “Frankly people, this city doesn’t give a damn about its rich past.”

It also doesn’t help that this province does such a deplorable and piss-poor job of teaching Canadian history to its students. Depending upon what is being offered in high school, students may only take a generic History or Social Studies class, which may never touch on Canada’s efforts in both World Wars and other similar topics.

If students don’t learn about it, they become ambivalent. And when that happens, there is no next generation to help promote the history and past of this city and country and those who helped build and shape our nation. Or to fight for the continued existence of local historical buildings either.

Yes, buildings aren’t people and aren’t as valuable as a person. However, buildings are a good link to our past and tell us where we have come from. Every decade or generation see new buildings pop up with different styles. Those styles are a testament to the vision our leaders had when they lived.