We Are Canada

'It's important to know what's possible:' Ken Dryden on Canada's future at 150

CBC's new series 'We Are Canada' profiles Canada's most inspiring young change-makers. Series creator Ken Dryden shares his insight into Canada's present and future.

Creator of 'We Are Canada' on Canada's most inspiring young change-makers

'I hope for Canada for the next 150 years — it is why I did this series — that we understand better our possibilities. ' Ken Dryden (White Pine Pictures)

Who are the Roberta Bondars, Naheed Nenshis, Robert Lepages and Buffy Sainte-Maries of the future? In CBC's new six-part, bilingual series We Are Canada, we meet the young Canadians who are changing the world, now.

This country is full of inspiring change-makers — our #WeAreTheChange contest is highlighting even more young entrepreneurs, scientists, artists and innovators — and We Are Canada creator and co-executive producer Ken Dryden talked with us about the transformative work of those in the series, the importance of knowing what's possible and what comes next for Canada.

How did you find the inspiring young Canadians profiled in the series?

It was both hard and easy. To say something is "innovative" is simple.  We wanted the country to see people who are doing something "amazing."  It might be small, and at its beginnings, but it is on its way — apps for those with physical or neurological disabilities; actions to help Nicaraguan farmers grow trees, feed their families and fight climate change; robotic arms to do who knows what — things that seem so simple, so natural, so do-able, yet are so transformative. 

People doing amazing things are everywhere, of every background and circumstance.- Ken Dryden

The easy part? These people are everywhere. I began with a premise, which I now believe even more to be true — everybody knows somebody who is doing something "amazing." For this series, many Canadians were our scouts. We want all Canadians to be our scouts, to tell us about these people, so every Canadian can know. 

Why is it important to share their stories? 

It's important to know these stories, I think, because it's important to know what's possible. What we as individuals, what we as a country and as a world have in us to do and be. This may be even more important now as most of the public stories we hear are about things that are wrong, horrible, disastrous and how "im-possible" so many truly important things seem to be.

There's a remarkable diversity among the change-makers: across regions, backgrounds, abilities and the type of work each is invested in. Why was that important to you?

Showing diversity is important because not to show it would be a total misrepresentation of what Canada is.  As I said above, people doing amazing things are everywhere, of every background and circumstance.

Maya Burhanpurkar chats with students after speaking at a climate change symposium, Lakehead University. (White Pine Pictures)

This Sunday's episode features the extraordinary Maya Burhanpurkar. What stands out to you about Maya?

Maya, at 17, is our youngest change-maker, but I feel about her the same way I feel about all the people we show — I love her fascination with the world. Her exuberance. And whether it is looking at the stars or at a wheelchair or thinking about physics differently, she elicits that wonderful question in us as we watch her — where will this life, this Canada, this world take her next?

You've described Canada's sesquicentennial as an opportunity to reflect on where we have been, to look at how we got here and to envision where we're going. What's your hope for Canada in the next 150 years?

I am sure of only two things for the next 150 years. A Canadian life will be more and more connected to the rest of the world and to our planet. And, to live that life, we will need to get along with each other and with our planet. I have learned how important it is — as a person, as an organization/team, as a country — to know what you are and what you have in you to be. I hope for Canada for the next 150 years — it is why I did this series — that we understand better our possibilities. 

Ken Dryden is the creator and co-executive producer of We Are Canada, former goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and a former member of Parliament.