Dear Canadians postcard project aims to capture the pandemic moment

·2 min read

People across Canada are writing heartfelt digital postcards from the pandemic, some of which will be memorialized in the national archives in a project started by a pair of Victoria siblings.

Aysha Emmerson and Jasper Johnston, who are currently living and studying abroad, came up with the idea for Dear Canadians.

Emmerson, a student in resiliance studies at Harvard University, was inspired by a similar concept developed at the school called Dear Harvard, in which students who were "exiled" from campus due to the pandemic could write digital messages to each other.

"We came across this Dear Harvard project ... and we began to think, 'think big' and think about how this could be applied to the Canadian context," Emmerson said.

Submitted by Jasper Johnston
Submitted by Jasper Johnston

Emmerson, Johnston — a graduate student at Oxford University — and a group of the siblings' friends worked together to create a version for Canada.

"We experienced this palpable sense of togetherness and community and that was really encapsulated through the 7 o'clock cheer," said Emmerson, referring to the public's daily recognition of health-care workers. "So we wanted to think about how that kind of energy and togetherness and solidarity could be sustained."

The website officially launched on July 1. Anyone can upload a short message and a picture that is meaningful to them or choose from a selection of available photographs. The digital "postcard" is reviewed by the team before being posted on the website for anyone to read.

Johnston said that project spread through word of mouth and endorsements from organizations and influencers.

"It was sort of a snowball factor where we saw more and more cards coming in from every single province and we were very fortunate to have Historica Canada come on board and connect with us," said Johnston.

Historica Canada, a charitable organization dedicated to the preservation of Canada's history and perhaps most well known for the Heritage Minutes commercials, has made a commitment to incorporate and store some of the digital postcards in the national archives.

Submitted by Jasper Johnston
Submitted by Jasper Johnston

Some of the postcards have expressed sentiments of gratitude and reflection on what issues Canadians are facing today, said Emmerson.

She says she would encourage people to participate in the project for a chance to be a part of history.

"Your voice matters. Your voice is a part of history. We want to hear from you and your future self wants to hear from you, too," she said.

Submitted by Jasper Johnston
Submitted by Jasper Johnston

"This is a really great way for people to come together across different backgrounds and share a little piece of themselves and benefit from the warmth of that collective strength," Emmerson added.

To check out the digital postcards, or write your own, you can visit dearcanadians.ca.