'Milestones that tell the stories of this country:' 10-stamp series celebrates Canada's 150th birthday

How do you choose just 10 'significant and unforgettable' moments from Canada's last 50 years? Take a look at Canada Post's new, maple leaf-shaped stamp series that explores the contemporary tale of Canada.

Maple leaf-shaped series honours key moments, figures and milestones

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, right, helps unveil the stamp celebrating Canada's Constitution with Gatineau MP Steven MacKinnon, left, and Canada Post president Deepak Chopra on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 3. (Canada Post)

How do you choose just 10 "significant and unforgettable" moments from Canada's last 50 years? 

Well, if you're Canada Post, you turn to a committee of historians, philatelists, graphic designers and archivists. Based on their findings, the Crown corporation has created a 10-stamp series for Canada's sesquicentennial highlighting important milestones that have taken place since its 100th birthday.

"We wanted moments that the public had participated in and could identify with," Robert Waite, a Seneca College professor and chair of the committee that chooses subjects and designs for Canada Post stamps, told CBC News via email.

"We chose milestones that would allow us to tell the stories of this country."

Over the past few weeks, each stamp was unveiled by a distinguished Canadian with a personal connection to the depicted event. So how does the resulting, maple leaf-shaped stamp series reveal the contemporary tale of Canada? Take a look at the images and the stories behind them. 

Stamps depicting Expo 1967 in Montreal, and the Proclamation of the Constitution Act in April 1982. (Canada Post)

In 1967, we had "a coming-of-age on the world stage" with Expo 67, Waite said. Though our population hovered around 20 million, Expo 67 attracted a record-setting 50 million attendees to Montreal, including Queen Elizabeth II and then-U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. A brash, young Montreal architect named Moshe Safdie captured the spirit of the era with his bold housing complex Habitat 67, depicted on the first Canada 150 stamp. It remains a unique memento permanently etched onto Montreal's cityscape.

Queen Elizabeth II signed the Proclamation of the Constitution Act in April 1982, granting Canada complete autonomy over its Constitution and entrenching the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — the set of principles Canadians still rank as our most important national symbol. Celebrated on the second stamp of the series, "the Charter continues to shape our society and make us the envy of the world," said Waite.

Stamps commemorating the launch of the Canadarm in 1981, and the establishment of marriage equality in 2005. (Canada Post)

The Canadarm premiered with the Space Shuttle Columbia on Nov. 13, 1981 and, for more than three decades, proved itself deft and dependable for NASA space missions. It helped cement our partnership with NASA in human space travel, but was also instrumental in establishing Canada's reputation for robotics innovation and inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and inventors.

For decades, Canadian LGBTQ activists and supporters have fought for equal recognition and rights. On July 20, 2005, they won a resounding victory when marriage equality officially became law, making Canada the fourth nation in the world (and first outside of Europe) to enshrine the right of same-sex couples to marry. A significant legal and social milestone, depicted on a stamp featuring a proudly waving rainbow flag, the moment "signifies our quest to be a fully tolerant, fair and just society," according to Waite.

Stamps commemorating the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1971, and Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope in 1980. (Canada Post)

When traversing its lonely stretches or delighting in stunning vistas alongside it, the Trans-Canada Highway links our vast nation. Begun in 1950, opened in 1962 and officially completed in 1971, it runs from Victoria to St. John's (and links with roads to Yukon and the Northwest Territories). One of the longest national road systems on the planet, it's a symbol that "encourages Canadians to travel from place to place, learn from each other and to live out their dreams," said Waite.

An instance that also united Canadians from coast to coast came in 1980, when 21-year-old Terry Fox dipped his artificial right leg into the Atlantic Ocean in St. John's and set off on his inspiring Marathon of Hope. He ran nearly half the length of Canada before cancer — which had spread to his lungs — forced him to stop. Though the young hero died in 1981, Fox "remains a symbol of determination to overcome adversity," Waite said. His namesake foundation has raised more than $650 million worldwide for cancer research to date.

Stamps celebrating the birth of Nunavut in 1999, and the 1972 Summit Series. (Canada Post)

In the 1960s, Inuit groups began negotiating to secure their own territory, ultimately leading to the largest Indigenous land claims settlement in Canadian history and the debut of Canada's youngest territory in 1999. Nunavut ("our land" in Inuktitut) encompasses 1.9 million square kilometres or approximately one-fifth of Canada's land mass. Spotlighting Arctic Bay resident Leah Ejangiaq Kines as photographed by her spouse Clare Kines, the Canada 150 stamp honouring Nunavut "calls attention to the vastness of the North and the Indigenous people who have called it home for thousands of years," said Waite.

The 1972 Summit Series marked the first time a national hockey group assembled under the galvanizing moniker of Team Canada. After a roller-coaster ride of a series, the players — including series-clinching goal-scorer Paul Henderson (depicted on the stamp) —  triumphed. "The Canadian players demonstrated they could come through in the clutch. More importantly, it was a moment that united us all," Waite recalled. "People still remember where they were when the underdog Canadians pulled out a last-second win."

The final two stamps in the collection celebrate the achievements of Canada's Olympic and Paralympic athletes. (Canada Post)

The final two stamps of the series highlight the stellar achievements of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes — including skiers Alexandre Bilodeau, who captured Canada's first Olympic gold medal on Canadian soil, and Lauren Woolstencroft, the first Canadian winter Paralympian to win five gold medals at a single Games. They also celebrate the Games that have been hosted in Canada, each of which left a memorable mark on our nation, inspired subsequent generations of athletes and showcased the best of our country to the world. "Canadians of all backgrounds, beliefs and persuasions come together to vigorously support our athletes," Waite said. "The achievements of Canadians are part of our milestones and memories — and a source of national pride."