Tag Archives: Canadian cities

Interlibrary Loan

St. Thomas Public Library interlibrary loan slipI wanted a book a while back.  The public library didn’t have it and neither did the local bookstore.  Did I want to drive to London to look for it?  Or order it online?

I checked at the library again to see if maybe they had ordered it or if they’d want it for their collection if I bought it then donated it to them.  The librarian said “You can get it through interlibrary loan.”

Oh!  So, off to a different desk and my request was put in.  A couple days later, the book is in.  I looked through it with great excitement, wanting to know what library let me have it.  It came from Essex County Library.  How miraculous is that!

Interlibrary loan isn’t new to me.  I used it in university libraries and never thought twice about it.  Needing academic books or papers, of course your own library will not have everything available but another will.  So your library will get it from another painting of library shelves Carl Spitzweg ca 1850library because you need it.

But my assumptions about interlibrary loan usage for academic purposes never translated into it for a book that I simply want to read.  If the library doesn’t have it, I have bought the book or requested it as my “buy a book” donation to the library collection.

All the way home from the library, I looked at that book that had come all that way to me.  And the whole thing was free.

Think about that in comparison with your bank.  You put your money in the bank, the bank uses it to make money for itself.  And the bank charges service fees for any transaction you do chart showing bank fee changesinvolving your own money and even the report cards on what’s happening with your money – monthly statements etc.  Your money is making money for the bank.

The library?  You reading a book is not earning the library any money.  You getting them to get you a book from another library is costing them a lot more money than you simply taking a book off your library’s shelves and checking it out.  But that search for the book you request, requisitioning it, having it brought to your library for you to pick up, then the whole process in reverse to get the book back to its own shelves: free.

Yes, that’s what public libraries are about.  A fee for such services would prevent some people from being able to use interlibrary loan.  But what about a voluntary donation?  library card catalogue photo by Dr. Marcus Gossler (Wikicommons)Libraries are as hard, perhaps harder, pressed in terms of budgets and having to figure out how to provide good service to the community while dealing with cutbacks.  There generally always is a donation box somewhere in the library, but how many of us think to actually put money in it?  I did when I got this book.

If I’d bought my interlibrary loan book, it would have cost me about $30.  So a donation of $5 to the library is a bargain for me.

Tourist Board TV

Last night I watched the first episode of Arctic Air, CBC’s new series Arctic Air banner cbc website - tourism tvset in Yellowknife and surrounding lands.  Tonight Republic of Doyle, set in St. John’s, returns for its 3rd season.

Major sponsors of both shows are their respective provincial tourism departments.  I Newfoundland and Labrador plane at Arctic Air hangardon’t know if that is the reason why there’s a plane with the Newfoundland and Labrador logo at the Arctic Air hangar.  It might also be in recognition of the fact that there is a disproportionate number of Newfoundlanders employed in the North West Territories, both in government and private industry.  Either way, it was a nice touch.

Arctic Air struck me as kind of ‘North of 60 does Dallas’.  There’s the bad exploration DC-3 flying over waterguy, from away.  There’s the conflicted hero, from ‘here’ but been away.  There are the crusty, savvy locals.  There’s the nice pretty girl and the not-so-nice pretty girl.  There are locals (Dene and white) and come-from-aways, so we will always have someone who needs northern cultures and terrain explained and those who can do so.

DC-3 engine and wingAnd we have the terrain and the DC-3s – both starring ‘characters’ of the show.  As trainee pilot Dev said, these planes fought the Nazis.  And Dev himself, played by Stephen Lobo, is an absolute treat.

I want to like Arctic Air.  Early in last night’s episode, I wasn’t sure.  I’d seen these characters and dramatic conflicts before.  But, by the end, I wanted to see how Dev makes out as a pilot.  The rest of it, I can kinda predict.

Republic of Doyle banner cbcTonight, we get Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism’s offering – the Doyles back in the sleuthing business in old sinjohns.  It’s another show where you can see its television history.  It’s been compared to the Rockford Files, aptly, but as homage rather than copycat.

Weather: Tourism ideal vs. actual

They do argumentative father and son well.  And they place it in the glorious backdrop of St. John’s.  I’ve wondered how much leeway they have to build into their shooting schedule to get all those sunny days.  I can imagine cast and crew being woken up at dawn, after weeks off – “looks like a fine day, byes, let’s get at her!”

St. John's streetI lived in St. John’s a long time.  I know summer fog and drizzle.  I know early spring when you’re ready to gnaw your own leg off to get out of fog and snow and rain.  But you are trapped.  Even if you had all the money in the world, planes aren’t flying, ferries aren’t sailing:  the weather is too bad.  We don’t see that weather on Republic of Doyle.  And it is beautiful and awe-inspiring in its own right – once you stop trying to gnaw your foot off and look at it and feel it.  But I forget that weather while watching RoD.  I remember glorious days with sunshine reflecting off brightly painted old buildings, just like on the tv.

Musée Acadien PEI

If you have a drop of Acadien blood in your veins or if you just enjoy Permanent gallery, Acadian history, Musee Acadien, Miscouchethe distinctive sound of an Acadien fiddle, a place for you to go is the Musée Acadien in Miscouche, near Summerside.

A library full of binders of historical records, drawers of documents 3 generations of Acadian women with petsand compilations of genealogical research. I was there with only a few hours to spend, and a broad interest in all Acadian families with any connection to Newfoundland Mi’kmaq.  That’s a pretty tall order for assistance from archivists.  I figured I’d just poke around and get a feel for what was there.  Instead, files and books were pulled out and stacked on a table for me.  “Here, these might help you,” museum director Cécile Gallant said.

The emphasis is on Acadian family history.  But there are some church records from the nearby Lennox Island Mi’kmaq First Nation.  I started there, recording information as fast as I could.  I flipped through other files, recording names Earle Lockerbyand dates that seemed relevant to “my” people.  I looked at two huge published volumes of Acadien genealogy by Jean Bernard.  Vol. 1 was “A”: in PEI, for Arsenault.  It was also in the gift shop.  I bought it.  It seemed likely that everyone in PEI is somehow connected to the Arsenault family.I also bought Earle Lockerby’s Deportation of the Prince Edward Island Acadians.  If I could read French, the gift shop has many books on Acadien history that I would love to have.

Museum exhibit rooms

A quick tour of the exhibit rooms.  A whole room with a permanent 3rd painting in Acadian series by Claude Picard, Musee Acadien PEIexhibit of paintings by Claude Picard, depicting the creation and official adoption of the Acadien flag in the 1880s.  In another room, a temporary display of the lives and work of Acadien women.  Exquisite photographs, both professional and family snapshots.  Spinning wheels and kitchen tools, knitted and sewn goods, the implements and products of women’s hands.

St. John the Baptist Church cemetery beside the museum.  Names so familiar to me from Newfoundland west coast families.  I’d see these same names if I went to a graveyard in Louisiana.  Same families, but their move wasn’t voluntary.  In the 1750s, when Britain Cemetery gates, Miscouche beside Museumtook control of North America, the expulsion of the Acadiens began.  Many were sent to what’s now the US, especially Louisiana where they became Cajuns, adding their heritage and language to the cultures already there.  Others were “returned” to France on ships, to a homeland they’d never seen before.  Acadiens escaped to Quebec and Newfoundland or hid out and were missed by the British. Some stayed in their new homes.  Some returned to their homeland when it was safe.

carved panel telling Acadian history on side of Museum building, MiscoucheIn the museum and the cemetery, you get a sense of how vast Acadian history is in time and geography, and how strongly rooted it is in this small island.

 

Attawapiskat ‘Solution’

In a Sun Media op-ed column this week, Jerry Agar suggests a solution for the people of house interior Attawapiskat news.sympatico.cbc.ca 9 Dec 2011Attawapiskat, the embattled Northern Ontario reserve: leave it.

He points out that doing the same ineffective thing over and over again is, in general, a good definition of insanity.  His second point is that, in order to solve problems, individuals need to take action themselves.  I agree with both points.

But his solution – go to where the opportunities are – has also been tried and doesn’t slums of Ramos Arizpe Mexico photo by Codowork that well. The shantytowns of Mexico City are testament to the decisions and actions of individuals to leave their rural homes in search of employment and a better life in the city.  On a small scale, it works.  On a mass scale, not so much.

Will it help individuals and Canada as a whole to have everyone flocking to Toronto or Winnipeg?  What about the rest of the landmass we call our country?  The government has to pay incentives to medical students to get them to practice in rural areas.  Everybody, it seems, wants to be a doctor in Toronto, not so many in Nippers Harbour.

I give Mr. Agar credit for thinking laterally.  But let’s go a little further than just “leave the reserve.”  Why not make the reserve a centre of enterprise itself?  If people want to stay in the north or in rural areas, why shouldn’t they?  Who exactly benefits in the long run by having overcrowded megacities and vast expanses of unpopulated land?  In making First Nations communities viable wherever they are, the big stumbling block is the Indian Act.  So let’s think way outside the box and change that.

Miawpukuk Example

Aerial view of Miawpukek, from mfngov.caLet’s use the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq reserve Miawpukek as an example.  It was created from the village of Conne River and surrounding land in 1987.  At that time, Indian Affairs was promoting new measures of band self-government.  The people of Conne River, never before officially recognized as Mi’kmaq, were accustomed to the control afforded over life and actions afforded by regular municipal, provincial and federal government.  They were not about to give that up.  So, from the beginning, Miawpukek had a degree of control over economic and educational development that went beyond the Indian Act.

The prosperity of the community speaks to the success of that.  In the 1990s, former chief Shane McDonald showed me around.  Driving in, he laughed, “see, we’re on reserve land now, and the pavement starts.  Usually the pavement ends when you come into a reserve.”

dancers-from-miawpukek mfngov.caThe reason for its success?  The people used Indian Affairs money in ways that worked best for their community.  They built up a local economy that had people moving back there to find employment.  That development is largely connected with their traditional methods of land use.  The culture and the environment are alive and healthy.

So my solution for reserves like Attawapiskat starts with the Department of Aboriginal Attawapiskat 'solution' photo of town sign firstnations.ca/attawapiskatAffairs.  Redraft the Indian Act so that those who come under it have the same freedom to develop businesses and own property that other Canadians have.  Don’t force depopulation of northern and rural communities by action or inaction.  Let them develop in a way that makes sense for their people and their environment.

Goderich, Prettiest Town

Statue standing by courthouse, Goderich, after tornadoThe slogan of Goderich, on Lake Huron, is “The Prettiest Town in Canada.”  It’s never seemed like hyperbole to me.  Last Sunday, downtown Goderich was slammed by a tornado.  It devastated buildings, trees and vehicles.  A man was killed.

We had a cottage just south of Goderich when I was a kid.  Bluewater Beach was my favourite place.  Dad built me a tree house and I spent hours in it and prowling around in the woods.  Also hours at the beach – in the water, building sandcastles, picking up beachstones, on the hill up from the beach.

Aerial view of Goderich square, postcard 1984Then we’d go to town.  I loved the main street of Goderich – the square.  It’s more a circle around the beautiful courthouse in the middle, with huge trees and a bandshell.  Spokes go off all the way around, streets leading to the beach and other parts of town.

There was a five and dime on the square – we spent hours in there.  A glorious old hotel on one corner. I never went inside, but thought it was the most elegant building I’d ever seen.  Sometimes we’d swap Bluewater Beach for Goderich beach with its fine white sand.

We also went to the Maitland River at Benmiller.  We’d go in to the rock-bottomed river, St. Christopher's Beach at sunset, Oct. 2009lie in shallow pools of warm water or play in pockets of deeper water.

The old airport was a favourite stop, to visit the parrot who lived in the waiting room and talked a blue streak.  We’d drive along the industrial side of the harbour.  Sometimes just to look at the mountains of salt waiting to be loaded on ships.  Sometimes to go out in Dad’s boat fishing or just in the harbour steering around the huge Great Lakes vessels tied up.

Hindmarsh Horses

First time we went, to look at the cottage for sale, it was winter.  We heard sleighbells.  It seemed like a magic Christmas card, snow sparkling on the ground and evergreens, snowflakes falling.  It must be our imaginations, but our imaginations were all hearing the same thing.  And through the snow, we saw a horse-drawn wagon coming toward us.

The driver whoaed the horses and asked if we wanted to jump on.  Two Clydesdales were pulling a hay wagon full of kids and adults all bundled up.  Thermoses of hot chocolate were passed, people introduced themselves.  We rode around the small complex of streets, then people began jumping off at their respective cottages, saying “Thanks John, see ya later.”  We did the same thing when we got back to our car.

Angers' Retreat, cottage at Bluewater Beach 1961My parents bought the cottage and we went up in all four seasons.  Every winter, the horses would come through.  You’d hear the harness bells jingling, and run toward them and jump on the wagon.

The man with the horses was Mr. John Hindmarsh. His family had published The Star in Toronto.  I would walk out Bluewater Road to the highway where the Hindmarsh farm and another were kitty-corner from each other.  At both, the horses would amble over to the fence for handfuls of grass I’d pluck.

We referred to them as “the millionaires.”  I don’t know if they were in terms of bank balances.  But the late Mr. Hindmarsh certainly was in terms of generosity of spirit.  The Hindmarsh farm has been donated to the Ontario Farmland Trust and there are many walking trails and protected lands around Goderich thanks to the John Hindmarsh Environmental Trust Fund.

Goderich Rebuilding

Aerial view of Goderich town square after tornadoIf you’ve ever enjoyed driving around the square, or relaxed under the trees by the courthouse or on the beach, Goderich needs your help now.  You can donate to the Red Cross (1-800-481-1111 Canadian Disaster Relief), the Salvation Army, Perth-Huron United Way, Huron County SPCA or check out the open Facebook pages Goderich Help Link and Goderich Ontario Tornado.

Royalty

In June 1983 Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales, came to St. John’s on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  Two Britannia, at sea in Scotland after decommissioningyears before, I had woken up early or stayed up late, can’t remember which, to watch their wedding on television.

I was very excited that they were visiting and couldn’t wait to go to the harbour front to see them.  I didn’t want to go alone – it felt like an event that should be shared with friends.  Turned out the only people I knew who were going were Irish Republican supporters going to protest.  Well, you have to make the best of things, I thought.

So when the yacht arrived, I walked down to the waterfront with about ten people carrying placards and a rolled-up banner. We found Royal couple on Britannia deck - Charles and Dianaa good spot as near the yacht as we could get, with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary staying near us, keeping a watchful eye.

Placards were distributed and the banner unfurled.  Ten feet long, it read “England Out Of Ireland Now”.   I have no idea why they gave me one end of it to hold.

When the Royal couple came on deck, the crowd went wild.  Diana sparkled – well, like a princess.  Even at the distance we were, you could see her astounding beauty.  I too clapped and cheered and jumped up and down.  The banner bounced awkwardly so I tucked the stick under my arm to keep it steadier while I clapped.

Sinn Fein banner, in IrelandI turned around to look at my companions.  In this huge crowd, only they were standing stock still, with long morose faces.  Oops!  I tried to curb my enthusiasm, but it wasn’t enough.  One of the guys came to me and said, “stop clapping!  We’re not here to clap!”  Well, I was, and I hadn’t made a secret of it!  Still, I tried to keep still and look serious.

The Yacht without the Royal Couple

A few days later, the yacht was in port without the Royal couple.  Friends and I were in a downtown bar and some of the Royal Navy crew came in.  They sat with us.  Much later that warm summer night, going swimming seemed like a good idea.  So we did.  A sailor, fooling around, grabbed a girl’s ankle.  She twisted and the ankle was seriously sprained.  We had no car and she couldn’t walk.  Thankfully, we had fit young men to carry her.

Britannia gangwayThey felt bad for what happened, so invited us aboard the Royal Yacht the next day along with St. John’s dignitaries.  Unfortunately, the injured girl couldn’t navigate the gangplank with crutches.  The rest of us did and told her all about it afterwards.  Our sailors showed us the salons, kitchens and bridge – everything but the Royals’ private quarters.

I was sad when Britannia was decommissioned as a Royal vessel.  She was magnificent and deserved royalty.  In 1997 I also got up early or stayed up late to watch the funeral of Diana, former Princess of Wales.  This Friday I’ll do the same to watch her son marry Kate Middleton.

I have no pictures of my own from this time.  These came from: HMS Vanguard, Charles and Diana, indymedia and gangway.  Thanks!

Skating on the canal

Low-flying on glass, long swooping strides pushing you along.  Wind Rideau Canal skatewayat your back propelling you.  Wind coming at you, slowing you, your legs pushing forward into its face.  It’s you and the power and glory of winter.  From the National Arts Centre to Carleton University.  It’s skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

I never learned to skate when I was a kid.  I spent my very first years and my early teen years in a small Ontario village where the arena was the centre of town.  Girls figure-skated, boys played hockey.  Everybody cheered the local heroes – the Junior D hockey players with NHL dreams.  It happened for a few.  They left on hockey scholarships, went to farm teams.  Mostly, they came back.  Probably they play in the old-timers games at the arena now.

We didn’t live in that village during those formative years that would have given me proficiency on the ice.  When the village kids started skating lessons, we’d moved to a city.  Organizing skating wasn’t so easy.  I never took lessons.  Public rinks were scary places full of people who knocked you over as you stood wobbling on narrow blades.

Living near the canal

Later I moved to Ottawa.  A friend and I rented an apartment off Elgin Rideau Canal skatingStreet near the canal.  She was from my hometown.  She had taken skating lessons.  She owned two pairs of skates.

So to the canal in winter.  She held my arm until I was steady.  She showed me how to push and glide.  She glided alongside, holding my arm.  Then she let go.  I panicked, but I didn’t fall over.  One foot, swoosh, then the other pushing ahead, swoosh, then again.  I was skating.  It was like flying.  In daylight and in dark – swoosh, glide, glide, swoosh.

It was the beginning of my love affair with snow, cold, ice, winter.  I moved away after that year.  Next winter, I lived near a large pond that froze solid.  I bought skates.  I can skate!  No.  Skates on, totter on the ice, fall over.  Stand up, fall over.  Take a step – no swoosh, no glide.  Just bruises.  Skates got hung up, eventually lost.

Graphic for Rideau Canal, from Via Rail siteFifteen years later, back in Ottawa.  Living on the other side of downtown this time.  But treks to the canal in winter.  You could rent skates there now.  Fearful, maybe it had all been a dream, maybe I’d make a fool out of myself.  There with another friend who couldn’t skate.  I wasn’t going to be able to help him.  He gave me courage:  we’d made fools of ourselves in enough places, we might as well do so on the canal.

Beavertail stand, Rideau CanalSkates on, stepping fearfully out on the ice.  Step, swoosh, glide.  Glide, swoosh, glide.  I did it.  So did he.  I helped him balance a few times when he tottered.  We fell a couple times.  But so what?  We swooshed and glided the whole length of the canal.  It was just as magical as it had been before.  I felt like Toller Cranston.

The canal was a different place then.  The ice was kept clear all the way to Carleton.  Hot chocolate and beaver tail stands were all along the length of it.  Other skaters also were.  But you still didn’t feel crowded, you didn’t feel like a rat in a lab maze.

A skating Nanook of the North

Canal, by QueenswayWhen I’d first skated there, only a rink-sized patch of ice was kept clear near the Arts Centre.  The rest was left to the wind Zamboni.  Your ability to skate the length of it depended on the wind and your skill in navigating ice bumps and snow.  There were no lights, no hot chocolate-filled oases along the way.  You were on your own in the elements.  It was nice, especially at night, the feeling of being alone in the frozen tundra.

But the lights, hot chocolate and fellow skaters of 15 years later was also nice.  You didn’t feel like Nanook of the North, but you did feel part of a Christmas card world.

I’ve never tried skating again.  I don’t know if I could or not.  I own skates.  They hang in Skating on the canal at nightthe closet and, when I look at them, I hear the swoosh swoosh sound of the blades and feel the crisp winter air of Ottawa.  It’s ok with me if the Rideau Canal is the only place I can skate.  It makes it magical.  In Ottawa, I can be Joanie Rochette.

The top and bottom two photos are from the blog Images of Centretown, the 2nd is from Wikipedia, the 3rd is on the Via Rail site and the 4th is from Let’s Go Ottawa (Dec. 6th 2010).  Thanks for reminding me!

Losing Sgt. Ryan

Police in funeral procession for Sgt. Ryan Russell from CTV websiteTuesday morning, I turned on the tv to watch my tape of Coronation Street.  On CBC, I saw the funeral procession for Sgt. Ryan Russell of the Toronto Police Force.  For the next several hours, I watched the procession and the funeral.  There were over 12000 police officers, firefighters, EMTs and soldiers.  There was silence on the streets lined with people watching the procession.  The funeral in the huge Metro Convention Centre was beautiful and sad.  It was also a forceful reminder of the risk taken every day by men and women who choose policing as a career.  And a reminder that they are people with spouses, children, parents and siblings – family, friends and colleagues have lost an important part of their world.

Sgt. Russell was a recreational hockey player and a major hockey fan.  Legendary Montreal Canadiens goalie and senator Ken Dryden spoke to CBC on behalf of the Canadian government.  Sgt. Russell was fatally struck January 12th trying to stop a stolen snowplow on Mounted police at head of cortege for Sgt. Ryan, CTV websitesnowy Toronto streets.  All part of a quintessentially Canadian story perhaps.  And a story, and fear, shared by the thousands marching; police officers from across Canada and the US, firefighters, EMTs, members of the Armed Forces, RCMP in red serge, traffic wardens, K-9 unit dogs and horses from Toronto’s Mounted Police.  If it isn’t you who steps into the line of fire, it might be your friend.

I have a cousin who is a retired OPP officer.  I never gave it much thought.  Bill was a cop, other cousins were mechanics, one worked in an office, one in a grocery store.  Different jobs for different interests.  I never really thought that, for over 20 years, Bill put himself deliberately in danger.  We all can get hit by a bus or be attacked by a crazy or evil person.  But cops seek out the crazies and evil-doers.  That is their job.  Thank you, Bill, and all of you.

Photos are from CTV‘s website.  Thanks, and thanks to CBC and Global for devoting five hours of airtime to the full funeral.  There is a trust fund for Russell’s son Nolan set up at CIBC.

New Year’s Eve at the Harbourfront

boats in St. John's harbour at sunsetThe most wonderful place I ever spent New Year’s Eve was the waterfront in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The tradition started, according to CBC, in the 1960s with one family going to the harbour front. In the 1980s, when I first went, it was still just a small group of people, mainly those who lived downtown. You’d leave the bars about 11pm and walk to the harbour. And wait. At midnight, the ships that were docked blew their horns. Every one of them, as many as were in port, would toot one after the other, then in unison. A few minutes later, they’d stop. That was it.

Everyone would cheer, open champagne, sparkling wine or beer bottles, toast each other and themselves and yell “Happy New Year”. Then everybody would make their way back up the hill, either back to the bars or home.

view of Narrows from harbour apronI remember one New Year’s Eve so cold with gale force winds that only maybe twenty diehards were there. You nearly got blown into the harbour it was so windy. Still, if you could survive until the ships’ horns marked the passing of another year, the fireplace at the Ship Inn up the hill on Solomon’s Lane was waiting to warm you up.

From ship horns to fireworks

Over the years, the waterfront became the spot to go. People began coming in from the suburbs. City officials decided it would be good to have fireworks at the harbour. That was nice, but in the opinion of many of us it was also unnecessary. I assume, prior to that decision, there were fireworks somewhere in town.

New Year's Eve fireworks St. John's 2000 photo CBC NLAnyway, with the fireworks came even bigger crowds.  People were bussed in to downtown because there just wasn’t enough parking. Then, in the early or mid-1900s, someone decided to make it a commercial event. Snowfencing was placed along the harbour apron, with one entry gate. You needed a ticket to get in. Vendors were there, so were police. Hauling a bottle of Baby Duck out from under your coat was no longer permissible. I suppose it never was, but there was no one around who was going to complain.

I read on CBC’s website that the fireworks won’t be held at the harbourfront this year due to liability and insurance issues. That’s ok, I think. Maybe the harbour can go back to welcoming those who want to stand on the apron and clap and cheer the new year in without fireworks. Maybe the ships will blow their horns again.