Premier Greg Selinger has announced the province will rename the August civic holiday after Canadian icon Terry Fox.
Although Fox spent most of his adolescence in British Columbia, and never made it to Manitoba on his remarkable 1980 Marathon of Hope, he was born in Winnipeg and spent his early years here in the province.
Ever since the creation of Louis Riel Day in 2008, the August civic holiday has been begging to be named after a significant figure.
We applauded the government for taking a strong, slightly controversial stance in honouring Riel (no offence, other provinces, but “Family Day” is bland-verging-on-boring) and we find ourselves applauding the selection of Fox as an honouree as well.
Despite what he considered a disappointing start, plagued by poor weather and lack of public interest, by the time Fox’s run reached Ontario, he was a bona fide national star.
Sadly, as most people know, the one-legged runner was forced to end his bid to cross the country near Thunder Bay, when the cancer that had claimed his leg was discovered to have spread to his lungs.
He died nine months later, just shy of his 23rd birthday.
A birthday, by the way, that was July 28 — close enough to make the first Monday in August an appropriate date to honour him.
As any newspaper located anywhere near the Trans-Canada Highway will no doubt agree, Fox’s legacy continues to inspire people who aim to walk, roll, wheel or pilot various vehicles from one end of the country to the other, raising money and awareness for any number of causes.
Even today, Terry Fox runs are held annually across the nation. He has had many buildings, schools, streets and roads named after him. There has been a Terry Fox loonie and a Terry Fox stamp. He was the youngest Companion of the Order of Canada and was named the Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year in both 1980 and 1981.
There is even Mount Terry Fox in the Rockies, part of Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park.
In short, there has been no shortage of honouring Fox.
And yet, this new honour is welcome.
Although an official law to make the change won’t be introduced until the fall, we bet that most Manitobans will be talking about “Terry Fox Day” this weekend.
We hope that Terry Fox Day will take a lazy summer long weekend and invest it with new meaning. It could be an opportunity to talk about cancer or about health in general. It could inspire a weekend of physical activity, or it could prod people to spend the day working for charity.
Even if it merely brings a moment of reflection, that’s so much more than “civic holiday” ever roused.
We look forward to the first official Terry Fox Day next year. But in the spirit of national ambition that Fox himself excited, we call on other provinces to take the next 12 months and to follow Manitoba’s lead.
Terry Fox Day should tie the country together in the same way that Fox himself did.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 31, 2014