British Columbia

50-year-old time capsule at Abbotsford Airshow shares messages from the past

A time capsule from 1970 buried in front of the Abbotsford Airport was unsealed Friday morning. Inside there were messages from former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and U.S. President Richard Nixon.

Time capsule buried in 1970 was to celebrate Abbotsford Air Show being named 'Canada's National Airshow'

The Abbostford time capsule was buried in 1970, placed beneath a cairn made with rocks from every province in Canada. (Abbotsford Air Show/Facebook)

A time capsule from 1970 buried in front of the Abbotsford International Airport was unsealed Friday morning.

Filled with artifacts and messages from politicians of the day, it was buried to commemorate the Abbotsford Airshow being designated as "Canada's National Airshow" that year by Pierre Trudeau, the prime minister at the time.

The time capsule was placed beneath a cairn made with rocks from every province in Canada. 

Federal Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan and Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun watched on as Abbotsford Airshow Society chairperson Steve Stewart did the honours.

Sajjan remembered growing up in the Fraser Valley and going to the airshow as a kid in what he called his "berry-picking days."

"A lot has changed between 1970 and 2020. It has brought a lot of unique challenges for not only Canada, but for the entire global community," Sajjan said to the small crowd. 

"Let's celebrate the last 50 years and look forward to the next 50 years."

Wearing masks and physically distancing, dignitaries including the mayor of Abbotsford, Henry Braun, Mike de Jong, MLA for Abbotsford West, and Defense MInister Harjit Sajjan were on hand to witness the unsealing of the time capsule. (CBC)

Inside the capsule, a letter from Pierre Trudeau written on a typewriter congratulates the airshow as it prepares to hold its show that year.

Trudeau wrote about how far technology had come.

"The progress of aviation in the past 100 years is a tribute to the genius of man and to a rapidly expanding technology," he wrote.

"It stretches the imagination that a few seconds of free flight in a crude machine little more than half a century ago has already culminated in man stepping on the moon."

Neil Armstrong had become the first man to step on the moon just one year earlier, in the summer of 1969.

Former U.S. president Richard Nixon, along with Canadian politicians and other dignitaries, also submitted greetings and messages of hope for those living in 2020. 

2020 Airshow to be livestreamed

As Stewart pried open the lid of the capsule, he did so knowing there would be no airshow this year because of COVID-19. Instead, a virtual event is being livestreamed in its place on Saturday, Aug. 8.

Abbotsford Airshow president Jim Reith said that would have been hard to imagine back in 1970 for many reasons. 

"It would have been outrageous to consider that our 2020 airshow would be cancelled due to a global pandemic," Reith said.

After the old capsule was opened and its letters from the past unsealed, a new one was placed back in the cairn. It will be opened Aug. 7, 2070.


Deborah Goble is a TV and radio reporter for CBC. She has over 30 years of journalism experience and an interest in features. Follow her on Twitter @CBCDeborahGoble and send her news tips at


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