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Local history buff to represent NWO in national competition

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In her history project, Emma Lang explores the legend of Ken Leishman, the man behind the largest gold heist in Canadian history. Photo by Hope Murdick.

Story by Hope Murdick

Each year, 250,000 elementary school students participate in heritage fairs across Canada. From this group, more than 12,000 students represent their schools at 80 regional heritage fairs in every province and territory. One very intelligent young lady from Vermilion Bay was not only able to represent her school at a regional heritage fair, but also went on to represent all of Northwestern Ontario in the national heritage fair competition. Emma is one of 30 finalists in all of Canada to be participating in the national heritage fair.

In her project, Emma Lang explores the infamous legend of Ken Leishman, the man who pulled off the largest gold heist in Canadian history.

“It was really interesting learning all about his life,” Lang said.

“He wasn’t just a criminal, he was a robin hood. He wasn’t a bad person, but a good man with good intentions. I have always tried to connect my history fair projects back to Northwestern Ontario so I chose this topic because after his criminal life he moved to Red Lake.”

As this fair was Emma’s fourth heritage event, she has had the opportunity to study a range of topics throughout Canadian history.

“I think the history fairs are really important and give kids a chance to learn about interesting Canadian history,” Lang said. “I’ve always enjoyed doing them and am so excited to be representing all of Northwestern Ontario in the national heritage fair competition.”

Emma is set to hear the results of the competition in September and patiently awaits the verdict.

“I have received so much support from people around the area. Media from as far as Thunder Bay have contacted me,” Lang said. “It’s really cool to hear from people, I have even met many friends of Ken and his family which has been so interesting. I have learned even more after finishing my project through hearing their stories.”

Canada’s history is a national sponsor of heritage fairs across the country and very excited for all of the qualifying youth. Community Engagement Coordinator for Canada’s History, Joanna Dawson played a huge role in facilitating the heritage fairs through the Young Citizens program.

“The Young Citizens program and heritage fairs across Canada really bring history to life,” Dawson said. “The participants often made real, personal connections to the topic they studied. These students now recognize the importance of understanding our past and ensuring that it’s not forgotten – which is a valuable lesson for all Canadians to learn.”

The Young Citizen’s program provides students with many opportunities above and beyond new found knowledge. Heritage fair participants often find themselves in wonderful positions for networking and feedback on their work from professionals. Their projects are often presented at different conferences, students are able to participate in media events and one student was even contacted by a provincial museum about using his project in an upcoming exhibit.

“When these students are given the opportunity to really explore their abilities and to make their work accessible to such a broad audience, it’s pretty remarkable what doors will open for them,” Dawson said.

Emma Lang is living proof of this with her impressive video presentation of Ken Leishman. If you would like to view Emma’s video you can head to and click the “Top 30 Revealed!” link.

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