National To-Do List

10 things you can do now (like, this week!) to make Canada a better place

Want to make a big difference? Start small. We asked 10 thoughtful people to help us build a national to-do list. You can get started today!

Here's your to-do list, powered by the suggestions of 10 thoughtful people

Just imagine tomorrow if we all decided to plant a seed of change today. (Miriam Stauble/CBC)

Canada 150 has forced many big-picture conversations to the surface — some hopeful, some hard. The only thing we know for sure: this place we call Canada is going to keep changing, and our individual decisions can help shape that change. 

Could 2017 be as identity-building for the country as the Centennial was in 1967? Or as much of a historic turning point as 1867? Perhaps you've thought about what you would've done, had you been around then. Well, to borrow the words of TV writer David Slack, "you're alive now. Whatever you're doing is what you would've done."

With the year half over, what might we do today — or, say, this week — to build a better tomorrow? 

We asked 10 thoughtful people to build us a national to-do list. Each person suggested one simple action, with a potentially big impact, that could shape the way this sesquicentennial year is remembered. (Eager to act on something? Let us know.)

1) Visit one new place where "other" people gather

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux (Stan Wesley)

Make a genuine effort to extend your interest to one individual from a different culture, face to face, at least once a week.

You can start by going somewhere you've never gone: a church, a synagogue, a pow wow, etc.

The goal is to learn at least one thing about another culture that you can reflect on and celebrate, and learn truths about those you have not yet had the privilege of meeting!

Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux
Chair on Truth and Reconciliation at Lakehead University

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2) Grow native plants to help at-risk species

David Miller (Jeff Davidson)

Get your hands dirty to help reverse the startling decline of wildlife in Canada.

When you plant a native garden, you help create habitat for at-risk species (such as the endangered rusty-patched bumblebee). If you have green space — whether it's a vast garden, a balcony or a window box — you can switch out ornamental and invasive species for plants that provide habitat. 

It's easier than you think.

David Miller
President and CEO of WWF-Canada and former mayor of Toronto

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3) Draw or paint an honest self-portrait

Gabrielle Zilkha

In the age of selfies and self-documentation, taking the time to create a self-portrait through a more artistic process, like drawing or painting can be a great exercise in self-reflexiveness. You end up with a representation of yourself that reflects your inner-world more than it does your appearance (and it can also be pretty funny!).

Cultivating time for self-awareness, especially through creativity, is something I encourage all Canadians to do to live fuller, more authentic lives. If we do this collectively, perhaps we can change our national character, making 'self aware' the new polite.  

Gabrielle Zilkha
Award-winning filmmaker, funny woman and creator of the new CBC Arts series Queer (Self) Portraits

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4) Give your favourite hangout an accessibility audit

Aimee Louw

Does your favourite spot have a wheelchair accessible washroom? Is it scent free? Does it hire sign language interpreters for events?

The widespread inaccessibility of cultural spaces, businesses and even transit make it unclear if we as disabled people can get where we want to go.

If everyone reviewed one spot and shared the info on Google maps, we'd have access info for tens of millions of locations in Canada — and spare many a serious hassle!

Aimee Louw
Freelance writer, filmmaker, radio host and communications scholar

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5) Learn the story of Marie-Joseph Angélique

Rania El Mugammar (Karimah Gheddai )

There are great plays, stories and even books written about the enslaved African woman accused of burning down the city of Montreal. 

Learning about her teaches us about a part of our history that we often ignore and will help us understand our responsibilities towards Black communities in Canada.

Her story provides a context for understanding present day anti-black racism in a Canadian context, without basing it on American narratives.

Rania El Mugammar
Artist, anti-oppression consultant and community organizer

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6) Do something to thank an unrecognized leader

Drew Dudley

Leadership is put on a pedestal; too often we make it about status, not service.

Think about all the people who've left you better off because of who they are and what they do. The friendly bus driver. The patient customer service rep.

Every day, ask yourself: "what did I do today to recognize someone's leadership?"

Because leadership recognized is leadership created.

Drew Dudley
International leadership speaker and Founder of Day One Leadership

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7) Sign up to learn one new thing that scares you

Anand Mahadevan

Get uncomfortable. We learn when we are out of our comfort zone, so try something you think you may not like.

You'd be surprised at how child-like our laughs and excitement become when we try new experiences and allow ourselves to be surprised again. 

Just imagine what we could collectively accomplish as a nation if we all did something to face our fears? We may never see ourselves or our world the same way again. 

Anand Mahadevan 
Teacher and writer. Winner of Dayne Ogilvie Prize Honour of Distinction for LGBT writers and a Prime Minister's award for excellence in  teaching.

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8) Read a child a book that features an LGBT character

Mona Greenbaum

When a grownup reads to a child, it is a special time that will always be remembered.

Books contain characters that children can relate to, and reading together can help you model openness.

Even if you live in a community that is not very diverse, books are a way to expose your children to the differences that exists in our world and to combat stereotypes.

Mona Greenbaum
Human rights advocate and director of LGBT Family Coalition

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9) Find one way to support your local women's organization

Angela Marie MacDougall

Community-based women's centres, sexual assault centres, and transition houses save women's lives and are a driving force behind gender equality in Canada. 

Supporting your local organization through volunteering or donations ensures women dealing with violence in your community have a safe place to gather, to heal and to plan.

Each location has its own specific needs, from sorting donations to ushering at fundraising event, so figure out what's needed locally and lend a hand. 

Angela Marie MacDougall
Executive director Battered Women's Support Services, anti-VAW activist

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10) Figure out what your gifts are and share them freely

Aaron Mills (UVic Photo Services)

Be wise enough to recognize a gift, humble enough to receive the gifts of others, and grateful enough to share yours.

While this may sound trite, these are some of the core Indigenous constitutional mechanics that have sustained Indigenous persons, communities and the living earth with one another for countless generations. 

You don't need to be Indigenous for them to be yours too.

Aaron Mills
Doctoral candidate at UVic Law and a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholar.

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To-do list challenge!

Are you willing to take on something (or everything) on the list? We want to hear about it! Email 2017@CBC.ca with the subject line "national to-do list." Please include a short write up and photo evidence of your action.

About the Author

Fabiola Melendez Carletti

Fabiola Melendez Carletti is a journalist and digital storyteller. As a producer with CBC Podcasts, she can usually be found with earbuds in and a smile on.

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