Category Archives: Canada

Giving Slaves a Modern Humanity

turner and prbhai

Did you know slavery was legal in Canada til 1834?  The ad above was one of many placed in Canadian newspapers by owners looking for their runaway slaves.  In the Art Gallery of Ontario ‘s exhibit Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai have tried to restore humanity to these runaway slaves by dressing them up and photographing them in modern day costumes that compare to the 1800s style clothes the slaves are described as wearing in the ads.   

photo turner and prbhaiThis woman is sheathed in a calico gown, holding a silk hankie and wearing a dress hat just like the runaway slave described in the ad.  But the black woman in the photograph is free and no one’s slave. Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai hope portraying the runaway slave this way will make people more aware that slavery was part of Canada’s history. 

Other posts………..

A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife

Jamaican Slavery

A Black and White Religion


Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Canada, History, Toronto

Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian

In 1986 when the curators of the Picasso Museum in Antibes France decided to paint a memorial artwork to honour Picasso, a Canadian woman was chosen as one of four artists from around the world to help create the memorial. Her name was Daphne Odjig.  

Daphne died last year at age 97 after a remarkable career.  She was  dubbed  Picasso’s Grandmother by fellow indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau. Daphne discovered the paintings of Picasso in the 1950s and carefully studied and analyzed his work. Picasso upon seeing Daphne’s work at an exhibition called her  ‘a remarkable artist’. 


Tribute to Picasso by Daphne Odjig

Daphne is sometimes referred to as the Grandmother of Indigenous Art.    Joseph Sanchez says Daphne was indeed a ‘grandmother’ figure to many indigenous artists. “Her energy guided us,” he says.  She also gave indigenous artists financial support by buying their paintings for her gallery.

friends rejoicing by daphne odjigI always end my Picasso tours at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by going to look at Daphne’s painting Friends Rejoicing in our collection and tell my tour participants about Canada’s Grandmother Picasso. 

Other posts…….

The Song My Paddle Sings

An Award Winner Inspires Teens

A Different View of the World

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Canada, WInnipeg Art Gallery


the common forks

What could be more Canadian than a canoe? Just after entering The Common, the refurbished new eating area at The Forks you can look up and see  a trio of fun sculptures by Winnipeg artist Jordan Van Sewell. I noticed them for the first time last week when I met my friend Esther at The Forks for a walk and lunch. canoe 1

Nineteen diverse and interesting characters represent Canada’s people, animals, symbols and strengths. Canoes are certainly a very Canadian mode of transportation. They were invented by indigenous Canadians and played a big role in the building of our country as they transported furs and supplies and people. The sculptures are inclusive. After looking at the three canoes closely I think every Canadian could identify with at least one of the characters in some way. I like it that the artist included animals too because co-existing on this earth with all God’s creatures is important. canoe 3

The waters each canoe moves through are different.  Here the canoe is gliding down frothy night waters. Check out the poppy in the first character’s lapel who I think may be a miner holding a shovel. There’s a musician perhaps of Italian descent paddling with his guitar and the polar bear has a paddle too. canoe 2

If you visit The Forks you are sure to encounter a wide diversity of people. Jordan Van Sewell’s artwork Canoes represents that so well. If you’ve never noticed these sculptures check them out the next time you are at The Forks. 

Other posts………

A Waterfall at the Library

Katherina Vermette on the Wall

The Guess Who on the Wall

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Canada, Winnipeg

Canada Day At the Forks

We had a fun time down at The Forks celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.
Hanging out at the Oodena Celebration Circle listening to the amazing aboriginal drummers and watching the First Nations dancers.  Checking out the Human Rights Museum and bumping into old friends Robin and Craig.  It was so great to catch up with them. 
People watching and marveling at the diversity of the Canadian population. Some people have been in our country for thousands of years, others for a few generations and some have just arrived. We represent so many races and cultures and religions and languages and that was in very clear evidence watching the crowds of people down at the Forks yesterday. Visiting my colleagues at the Winnipeg Art Gallery container where they were inviting visitors to design their own Canadian flag. Enjoying some great food from Nu Burger down on the river front while listening to the Riel Mens Chorus sing. Here we bumped into our friends Werner and Adelia and had  a nice visit with them.  Listening to our friends Bruno and Caroline perform with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir.  They sang O Canada in both languages, and a wonderful variety of pieces including an Inuit song, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and an arrangement of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom that included these words………….  When every hand joins every hand and together moulds our destiny, That’s when we’ll be free.

Other posts………

O Canada- Traveling the Country

Canada Day in Leamington

Treking to the Tip of Canada

Leave a comment

Filed under Canada

I Could Cry I’m So Happy to be a Canadian

She’s in Canada and she cries! In the most recent episode of  the television series The Handmaid’s Tale a young woman is on the run trying to escape sexual slavery at the hands of the patriarchal, religious, totalitarian regime that governs the United States. She finds herself in a barn where a truck is stored.  She has no idea where she is but she has been running for a very long time through forests and fields. She falls down on the ground in exhaustion and reaches up her hand to wipe the snow and grime off the truck’s licence plate so she can read it.  It says ONTARIO and she weeps with joy and relief. 


Sitting in the speaker’s chair in Canada’s House of Commons 

That scene made me cry. I have never been happier to be a Canadian citizen than I am this Canada Day.  I know it isn’t something to take for granted and I also know Canada has many problems it still needs to work on, (see yesterday’s post) …….. but right now I am awfully happy to live in a country where I know people can legally love and marry whom they want, where women have control over their own bodies, where the government’s cabinet  is gender equal, where we welcome refugees, where what scientists have to say about climate change is given credence,  where health care is free to all and where we have sensible laws about gun ownership.

I am enormously grateful to Canada for letting my grandparents and my husband’s parents come here when they were in such desperate circumstances, and giving our families the opportunity to build meaningful rewarding lives that have contributed to making Canada a better place. 

Other posts……….

Thoughts on Refugees

Steinbach Pride- Homecoming Forgiveness and Hope

Let Me Count The Ways

Leave a comment

Filed under Canada

What is the Doctrine of Discovery?

I saw the play The Doctrine of Discovery on Wednesday night. It used drama to explain why those of us whose families immigrated to North America from other countries, must look at our history on this continent from the perspective of the indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years before we arrived.
I found two contrasting scenes in the play particularly powerful. One tells the story of a widowed Mennonite woman coming to North America as a refugee from Russia. During her harrowing march across Europe to freedom she loses three of her children. She is so relieved to finally arrive in her new home. Now she can begin again on her own land. What she doesn’t realize is the property she acquires in North America once belonged to indigenous people who have been forced to move to a reservation.
A subsequent scene tells the story of a First Nations woman evicted from her ancestral lands and forced to take up life on a reservation. On her trek to her new home the indigenous woman says over and over again, “and the children die.” There is sorrow and hardship awaiting her family as they are forced to adjust to a very different life governed by the harsh rules of colonizers.
Both women have made difficult journeys…  both have lost children… but one woman’s hopeful story comes at the expense of another’s tragic story.

The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn. Indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipeg. 

The play prompted me to do more research on The Doctrine of Discovery. It was a 15th century edict that said Christians could lay claim to any lands they discovered that were not already inhabited by Christians. If that land was home to ‘pagan’ people, attempts could be made to convert them. If these conversion attempts failed the ‘pagans’ could be made slaves or killed. The impact of this horrific doctrine is still being felt today and has been cited in court cases within the last decade. 

The Doctrine of Discovery made slavery or death the only options for indigenous North Americans who didn’t convert to Christianity.

In July of 2016 the national body of Mennonite churches to which I belong, voted to officially and publicly repudiate or divorce itself from this doctrine.  The play The Doctrine of Discovery is one way to help church members think about our participation in the enactment of that doctrine and to consider what steps we can take towards repentance, truth, and reconciliation with our indigenous neighbours. 

Other posts……..

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

Story Sticks

A Different Perspective


Leave a comment

Filed under Canada, History

50 Years Ago

Mr. Melvin Toews (father of noted Canadian writer Miriam Toews) was my grade seven teacher at Woodlawn School in Steinbach during the 1966- 1967 school year.  Canada was celebrating its 100th birthday.  In the fall of 1966 Mr. Toews decided to put together a magazine called The Woodlawn Journal.  Each student was asked to contribute a piece of writing about Canada or write a report about how different areas of the country were preparing to commemorate the centennial.  

The journal opened with a poem about Canada by my friend Audrey. On the second page was my essay entitled This Land of Ours. Mr. Toews printed up many copies of our journal, probably at his own expense, and we all felt great about being published authors with our work available for others to read. 

Here’s how my essay started………..

Canada is a rough vast land nestled between two foaming masses of water. It stretches from the Atlantic Ocean where the lonely wails of fishing schooners fill the air to the Pacific Ocean where you can hear the harsh blasts of ocean liners as they chug out of Vancouver’s harbor. It reaches northward to the snowy land of polar bears and reindeer and south to the blue waters of the Great Lakes. 

Pretty poetic wasn’t I? 

As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday it is kind of neat to look back at the journal my classmates and I created fifty years ago for another milestone in Canadian history. 

Staff picture Elmdale School 1976-1977 I am second from the right in the back row. Mr. Toews is sitting to the far left.

By the way I didn’t save my copy of the Woodlawn Journal but a decade after I was in Mr. Toews’ grade seven class I got a job at Elmdale School where Mr. Toews was on staff as this photo attests. On my first day on the job I walked into Mr. Toews’ class to say hello and he went straight to his filing cabinet, pulled out a copy of the journal and opened it to the page with my essay.  He gave me the copy to keep. Thanks Mr. Toews. 

Other posts……….

O Canada

On the Eastern Edge of Canada

An Interesting Interview



1 Comment

Filed under Canada, Education