As each and every year in this millenium, once again Queen Elizabeth the Second has made an extraordinary proclamation to honour George Ryga, the great Canadian writer. Through her provincial representative and the B.C. Attorney-General, Her Majesty has designated the period from August 24 to September 1 as “Ryga Week” throughout Brtitish Columbia.
Why is this extraordinary? Well, if you go on to the BC government’s Proclamations website: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/content/proclamations/proclamations/?xsl=/templates/browse.xsl
There you will find days, weeks and months proclaimed for almost any type of humanitarian cause, human disease or activity. Or not even human - there was B.C. Wild Salmon Day on May 16th, and Natural Gas Week in October.
Thanks to the Ryga Centre Society, which operated the former Ryga residence in Summerland from the 1990s until 2014, Ryga Week has been proclaimed every year for around his birthday in July (1932) or sometimes his death in November (1987). For the past four years, Ryga Week has coincided with the annual Ryga Arts Festival that honours his legacy.
Proclamations about great figures in BC history are extremely rare. There is one for Louis Riel (but was he ever in BC?), and another about the centenary of the death of labour leader Albert ’Ginger’ Goodwin last year; it seems he may have to wait another century for his next proclamation. Beyond that, you will only find a mention of Captain George Vancouver who visited our coast more than two centuries ago, and there is St George’s Day (April 23rd), but his visit is not recorded. And then comes George Ryga. It clearly helps to be called George.
The tone of these proclamations is elevated and solemn, reminding us that in olden days it was a professional crier who would stand in the town square to bellow out the news. Actually, Summerland had its own Town Crier until about a dozen years ago, and there is an Okanagan Crier who would like to fill that job: https://www.summerlandreview.com/local-news/town-crier-seeks-role-in-summerland/
The best thing about the proclamation is that it informs the people of the province who George Ryga was and what he stood for. It reads in part: “WHEREAS George Ryga, a towering figure in the history of Canadian theatre, literature and culture, and the author of many novels, songs, and works for radio, film, television and stage, was a great Canadian writer and a tireless fighter for social justice for all marginalized people in our global village, and WHEREAS the exploration and artistic depiction of cultural identity, inequality, discrimination and reconciliation need continued examination and acknowledgment in Canadian society, and WHEREAS it is deemed desirable to designate George Ryga Week to celebrate his legacy and to coincide with the Ryga Arts Festival, which is to be held August 24 to September 1, 2019 in Summerland, British Columbia, where George Ryga lived and created most of his works; NOW KNOW YE THAT, We do by these presents proclaim and declare that August 24 to September 1, 2019 shall be known as “George Ryga Week” in the Province of British Columbia.
Well proclaimed, Your Majesty, for which much thanks.