What is Heritage and Who is History?

What is Heritage and Who is History?

I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Mike Quackenbush. Mike is a local community leader who works full time as the National Relationships Manager for RBC Insurance. Outside of his 9-5, he does just about everything and is also a professional genealogist. Through his passion for history, heritage, and everything in between, he uses this lens to tell stories that need to be told. Each month Mike will be delving into a new topic related to heritage in Burlington. He starts today!

What do you think of when you hear the word heritage? Do you think of where we come from and our ancestors? Do you think about our community and perhaps the old homes that still stand?

What if I now asked you what you thought when you hear the word history? Do you think of the world wars? Do you think about a time long ago – Medieval or Roman days? Or do you think about the First Nations inhabitants of our land and the first European settlers here?

It is sometimes hard to separate what we deem as heritage versus history.

Merriam-Webster provides these definitions:

  • Heritage is something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor, such as traditions or legacies.
  • History is a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.

Professional historian, Susan Marsden of PHASA illustrations that, “heritage is not history… it is not what happened in the past but what has survived from the past.” Marsden continues, ” …history is the past. This means everything which happened, even something which nobody knows about because no evidence for it seems to have survived.”1

In Burlington, there are three entities that advocate, preserve, and curate our heritage and history.

  • Heritage Burlington has a unique role that is set out in the Ontario Heritage Act to provide community input to City Council on properties recorded on the municipal heritage register. Through their committee structure they, “may advise City Council and city staff on any matter relating to property of historical, architectural, archaeological, recreational, aesthetic, natural or scenic interest.”2 The average person might have only come across this committee when they hear of a building on the register that has requested permission for demolition, if an owner wants their property listed/delisted from the register, or if they need to do renovations since renovations need to be in line with the heritage property guidelines.


  • The Burlington Historical Society was established in 1899 with a role to preserve the record of our past through collecting documents, artefacts, photographs, and other materials that help to explain what has happened in our community through the years. In the pre-COVID-19 world, they hosted regular monthly meetings at Central Library for the public and members to share stories of our past through an oral/visual presentation and the social sharing of information from member to member.


  • Museums of Burlington are comprised of both the Joseph Brant Museum and the Ireland House Museum. Their mission is, “to engage our audiences through the sharing of history & culture.”4 They host exhibits and provide conservation through their expansive curated collections, and education programming for both the public and school groups. Their Burlington Gallery exhibits the rich cultural history of where Burlington began to where we are today, including such rarities as a sword presented by King George III to Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) in about 1785.5

These organizations continue to exist through the countless efforts from volunteers across the community. Without their advocacy and creating awareness of our heritage and history, fewer and fewer people would understand what their community was built upon. We all have a role to play in passing along our heritage to the next generation.

My simple call to action is to go and explore more information on these organizations. Follow, like, subscribe to emails and for the Burlington Historical Society and Museums of Burlington, if you can, consider becoming a member or make a financial contribution to help them continue their mission of carrying forward our heritage, so that our future generations can better understand our history.


Images – Mike Quackenbush, 3 Mar 2021

  1. Marsden, S. (2010, November 18). Is heritage history? History and the built environment. Professional Historians Australia (SA) Inc. http://www.sahistorians.org.au/175/bm.doc/is-heritage-history.doc
  2. Terms of Reference. (2006, June 26). Heritage Burlington Advisory Committee. https://www.burlington.ca/en/your-city/resources/Citizen_Committees_and_Boards/Heritage_Burlington/HB-Terms_of_reference-As_at_Sept_2013.pdf
  3. About Burlington Historical Society. (2021). Burlington Historical Society. http://burlingtonhistorical.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/media/about/BHS_Constitution_2019.pdf
  4. About Us. (2021). Museums of Burlington. https://museumsofburlington.ca/about-us/
  5. The Burlington Gallery. (2021). Museums of Burlington. https://museumsofburlington.ca/exhibition/the-burlington-gallery/
My Hero, Laura Hillier.

My Hero, Laura Hillier.

You come to meet people in this life, that radiate this kind of energy. An energy you cannot define, yet you always feel. An energy that did not deplete when times got tough, when days got hard, and living became difficult. My friend, Laura Hillier had that energy. I am honoured to be talking about my friend Laura for the first BurlingtonDavid blog post as a local hero. I also want to inform readers that I have spoken with Frances and Greg Hillier for their blessings to highlight Laura and the progress ignited from her advocacy.

The thing is…Laura is more than a local hero; she is a national treasure. I say that because of her impact. For those who do not know Laura’s story. It begins with a kind, brilliant, artistic, and young girl. Laura and I became friends at Pineland Public School, both being in French Immersion. We ended up finding out that my mom (Darlene) grew up a block over from Frances’ family in the Mountainside community and were friends! What a small world! (That’s Burlington for you!)

Laura was always the smartest person in class. I had a bad habit of being chatty, so often I found myself being told to sit next to Laura (who exemplified excellent behaviour). I sure learned a thing or two from her.

Late in Grade 7 we found out that Laura had to take a leave of absence because she had fallen ill. We then were told that Laura had been diagnosed with Leukemia. This devastating news brought a community together to rally for our friend.

In grade 9 Laura was back! She was in remission after receiving treatment at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, ON. She was excelling in school, crushing her extracurriculars (especially drama club) where she was a lead in a variety of school plays and musicals. Once again, I found myself assigned next to Laura. Right at the front of the class, where she loved to be, and I hated to be. I would often joke to our French teacher at the time that Laura was cheating off my test and stealing my answers. I would get a grin from Laura, and an eye roll from the teacher who of course brushed it off knowing Laura’s moral compass was as straight as an arrow.

Laura at Nelson Graduation

Laura was diagnosed with the same cancer once again at the end of Grade 12. She fought like hell. She even attended our high school graduation. We could not have been prouder of our friend.

Moving into mid 2015, Laura found a perfect stem cell donor match for her essential transplant that had to happen to save her life. Despite having a stem cell match ready to donate, the healthcare system did not have a specialized bed or enough physicians to complete the transplant. This was a problem that the public didn’t know about. Laura being the fighter and advocate she was, knew that this was morally wrong and spoke with media. Many others in her situation were waiting and some died because of the wait. While in her bed and about to be intubated for the second time, she recorded a message pleading to the government to further invest in critical care infrastructure to ensure that people who have a donor can get a transplant.

Laura’s advocacy made national headlines as she joined her mother on National News

Laura Hillier passed away on January 20th, 2016. Family, friends, neighbours and beyond lost a special human being because of the specific failures of the stem cell transplant system.

Laura did not want this to happen to another single person in this country. Laura’s plea, her family’s continuous efforts and the government’s willingness to listen to her story has since driven extremely positive change.

Her Impact

Laura is my hero for a variety of reasons, stemming from that moral compass I talked about. That compass guided her through her final days, exhibited her strength and expressed her care for everyone around her. In Frances Hillier’s words “Laura’s advocacy ignited a spark that could not be extinguished”.

Months after Laura’s death, a provincial task force was created to address the crisis. Frances was invited by the Provincial Minister of Health to sit on this task force. Recently Frances sent out an update that warmed my heart. Progress is being made. Laura is making a difference, every single day. Here are some of the amazing examples of her impact in Ontario.

What Has Happened

· Capital expansion projects have been completed at Princess Margaret Hospital (in Toronto), The Ottawa Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (in Toronto) and The Juravinski Hospital (in Hamilton), significantly increasing the number of blood cancer patients who can be cared for in the province.
· Many additional transplant physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses have been hired.
· A new fellowship program was created to entice and train hematologists for this specialty.
· A nurse practitioner mentoring program and a nurse training program were developed for this highly specialized area.
· Models of care for treating blood cancer patients have been revamped so that patient care can be shared across many cancer centres and hospitals rather than overwhelming the capacity at the few transplant centres. As such, more healthcare professionals are familiar with the treatment of blood cancers and care can be provided closer to home for patients, especially post-transplant care.

Stem Cell Transplant Expansion Ward at Juravinski in Hamilton, ON because of Laura’s efforts

What is Happening?

· London Health Sciences is undergoing a project to expand its stem cell transplantation program.
· Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children is renovating its stem cell transplant unit.
· A brand-new facility at the site of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre will be built, dedicated to treating patients with blood cancers, including stem cell transplantation.
· Pilot sites in Ontario have begun using a new type of targeted cancer chemotherapy called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (or CAR) T-cell therapy, expected to be effective in treating some blood cancers.
· Canadian Blood Services is substantially increasing its efforts to recruit stem cell donors across Canada and university stem cell clubs are also raising awareness and recruiting donors.

My Hero

It is an absolute honour and privilege to call Laura my friend. Her voice is still strong despite her not being with us. Her actions and advocacy have had a lasting impact, have saved lives, and will ensure that nobody must go through what she did. Laura is my hero. She is a shining light. She reminds me to be strong when I have tough days. I could not think of a bigger hero in my life to highlight for my first blog post. Thank you to Frances, Greg, Heather and the Hillier/Pitt family for letting me share this story.

I encourage you to watch the short film A Voice for Change: The Laura Hillier Story by local filmmaker Sarah Gonyea to learn more about Laura’s journey and impact.


If you felt inspired by Laura like I have been my entire life, head over to http://laura.childhoodcancer.ca/ where The Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation (CCCF) has a website to support projects in Laura’s honour. Please consider a small donation if you are able.
“Life is a song… sing it ‘til your heart’s content.” Laura

A Burlington Christmas Dinner Miracle

A Burlington Christmas Dinner Miracle

Our community has once again proven what we already knew – that we are stronger when we work together. When Burlington is faced with adversity, we adapt and overcome. This year looked quite a bit different for everyone. Folks lost jobs, families lost loved ones and some of us became more isolated than ever. This Christmas Dinner was a light in all this year’s darkness. A unique opportunity to rally together and deliver a sense of hope. Hope that was often much more difficult to find in 2020.

Beginning as a conversation between Mary Dilly and Lisa Lunski (Wellington Square), finished as a Christmas Dinner that reached over 900 people with a warm meal and gifts for children. The dinner originally being held at East Plains Church, shifted to Wellington Square this year because of COVID-19 and collaborated with Wellington’s existing meal bag program infrastructure.

The dinner was a success because of the depth of support that was given. From volunteers who dedicated months of energy and time to deliver this program, community partners like the Burlington Food Bank, Food For Life, Open Doors and Next Door Social Space, Port Nelson United Church, Glad Tidings and friends amongst the community that did everything they could to help us deliver this safe, ‘pandemic proof’ Christmas dinner.

A variety of prepared meals from local Churches and Organizations

I hope to provide some insight into the amazing stories from behind the scenes of this dinner with you all, that gave me a sense of hope during these heavy days. Our volunteers are truly the foundation of this operation. We had over fifty committed volunteers who did above and beyond what we could have hoped for. From organizing delivery routes to wrapping hundreds of presents, carving turkeys, creating the meal bags, preparing our food, and keeping our space organized were a few of the many tasks championed by our team.

We all have been fortunate to develop many relationships with folks who use our program and came for a Christmas Dinner. We received cards, gifts, homemade treats and even a five-dollar Tim’s Card. When friends who have very little disposable income are giving like they do, it truly humbled me that they are so very appreciative and caring. This gave me hope.

When our Christmas Dinner was being distributed through our wonderful volunteer drivers who were able to reach our isolated friends, they shared stories of laughs and thanks received at the door. The team at Wellington were able to exchange smiles and often happy tears with those picking up. We knew we had accomplished what we were hoping for: a sense of belonging and hope. That it was we achieved this year. We could not be more gracious for the community support that we received and the inspiring actions of our partners, volunteers and friends who came to us for a hot meal.

This Christmas Dinner could not have been a reality without our dedicated volunteers

As we move into the new year, we at Wellington want to thank everyone who helped deliver this vision for us on December 25th. This was an inspiring way to wrap up a year that I hope will have seen more hardship than 2021 will offer us.

Remember to tell the positive stories. We have so many to tell, and often they inspire us to create positive change in our lives and communities. This is a positive story I wanted to share with you. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and have a Happy New Year Burlington.