The history of diversity in Moose Jaw

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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Kevin Dennison, administrative assistant for the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council, presented his findings Thursday on the history of the MJMC from hours of digging through archives.

Kevin Dennison spent the better part of a month digging through archives finding the history of the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council.

“There’s like 60 or 70 different portfolios, binders and photo albums just filled with newspaper clippings and photographs from 1974 all the way up to 2014,” Dennison said.

He presented his findings on the second floor of the library on Thursday.

Even though 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council (MJMC), that wasn’t Dennison’s motivation for piecing the organization’s history together.

“I realized that I’d been answering phone calls, making referrals, talking about services and doing all of these things for clients and for citizens across the city,” Dennison said. “But when I really thought about it, I knew what the services were but I didn’t know why we offered those services.”

He said the desires to dig and understand history are part of who he is.

Dennison has been with the MJMC since October 2012. He was born and raised in Moose Jaw, but with parents in the military, they moved around a lot.

He calls coming back the best decision he’s ever made and said his research has changed how he looks at his hometown.

“I just never really thought about my hometown detailed or intimately before, and so this was really cool seeing the more community side of things rather than my knowledge of CFB Moose Jaw,” Dennison said.

He said he’s learned that even newcomers are so deeply entwined in Moose Jaw’s business and cultural landscapes that “we’re all in it together.”

He researched the MJMC host program that closed in 2010, and looked into the origins of the Motif festival.

But not all of the stories Dennison researched came directly from the archives.

“Just one day I’m staring at this doll case in the main office, thinking about the archives and going ‘How did that get here? Why do we have that?’ So that became a little obsession for a couple days,” Dennison said.

And he found the answer. In the 1980s, different cultural groups made different dolls to donate to the library. The library passed it on to the Rotary Club. Finally, someone from the MJMC wrangled all the dolls together and brought them to the office.

What Dennison found most interesting from his research was the MJMC’s involvement with Happy Valley Park.

“I didn’t realize that the newcomers and the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council actually built the park,” Dennison said.

Happy Valley Park was a residential enclave but was evacuated in 1974 due to severe flooding. The flooding caused $9-million in damage and displaced 1,500 people.

Out of the flood came something Moose Jaw can be proud of.

“Every year, if anyone’s out at Motif and you’re looking around at the grass, the trees, the flowers and the play structures, everything there was put there by Moose Javians, by the Multicultural Council and by newcomers,” Dennison said.

He said that combination of efforts speaks volumes about the Friendly City.

“Moose Jaw isn’t what it is without our refugees, newcomers or immigrants,” Dennison said.

Organizations: Moose Jaw Multicultural Council, Rotary Club

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Happy Valley Park, Friendly

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