Thursday, August 24, 2017

Learning to CHILL

Catholic and a baby boomer -

When you are brought up Catholic...by Oblate priests and Cecile Mercier (my late mom), relaxing is not an option. The word chill is not a part of their vocabularies. Doing little to nothing, no matter why or when, is as close to a sin as you can come without being punished for it (...if you believe in sins).

My summer has been chill. Cousin Garry came over to two weeks and that was a real highlight as are all his visits. We barbecue, enjoy our city and all in all, we make the world a better place. Garry is back in Yorkshire awaiting our spring visit...

We then had Makwa and Nancy for a few days. Steve and Nancy have just become grandparents for a second time. They spent a few days here with their daughter Megan and that afforded us some great visiting time. Steve is
a master flute maker as well as my great friend.

And then, in keeping with the spirit of repos and chill, our good friends (and my partner in two Metis books), Dennis and Sharon Weber came to town. We went for dinner at our favourite hang out, Little Jumbo.

We had my old friend Laurie and and her friend John over for a barbecue.

Allan Primeau's niece Fanny from Montreal tried our cap steak.

Victoria turned 19 so there were parties - that I attended and enjoyed.

James is always a highlight in my day to day life.

And finally, this: Molson Canada gifted a classic Molson fridge to 150 Canadians. Brilliant, I say. Credit to living so long and having a great agent in Chris Patrick, I received this beauty (no, no beer included but still). Can you imagine a better gift for a man who is committed to learning how to "chill"??? I think not!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Proud to be Metis

This short video captures what I have tried to do in Proud to be Metis and in all my other books. It speaks to culture, literacy, education and so many other elements - all through the power of story.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Canada can do better

"We can't all be Finland" is what I hear when I quote the many successes Finland has achieved over the past few decades in its unconventional educational initiatives.

Over the next few weeks, I will focus on what Finland has been doing to move from a system of mediocrity to one that leads the free world in almost every segment of education.

My Arctic tour has driven home the obvious shortcomings of an educational system that we Canadians seem unwilling to change. It is well past the time that we stop tweaking what we have always done and do something very different.

These kids deserve to succeed. It is a human right that they be allowed to succeed - in their world, not in the world of central Ontario or Alberta. They should be allowed to succeed by their standards and not those of law makers who do not speak their language, who have never lived on their land and  who have likely never been to the Arctic.

Everything we know tells us that these kids will live lives at far lower standards than other Canadians - that they are destined to a world described by Canada's Auditor General in this way: Nunavummiut are far less healthy than other Canadians; a life expectancy 10 years lower, infant mortality five times higher, a smoking rate also five times higher, respiratory disease rates four times higher and a suicide rate six times higher.

Yet, they smile, laugh and speak their language with the greatest of pride. They continue to love and live off the land that provides them with life's bare essentials. They have hung on and will continue hanging on for as long as it takes for the rest of us to catch up.

When I spoke to primary children in Arctic Bay, they needed the help of a translator to understand me. Their spoken language is called Inuktitut. They speak it everywhere; at home, on the streets and at school. High school kids speak English with a charming accent. Their English is quite good but not of the level that would allow them to succeed in any standardized test.

Over the next few weeks, I will focus on what we might do differently.

For now, the best thing we have going for us is pictured here; amazing educators ready to do what is right for each and every child, if allowed to do so.

It is not possible however with hands tied by curriculum directed systems and standardized tests.

Cut our teachers loose and watch what passion, vision and commitment can do.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


I am no Anthony Bourdain, but I have lived and traveled much of the world, every experience was exciting and wonderful...and then came the Arctic! 

The Arctic might as well be the moon – in all things, land and water. And the people there, people who are like me, Canadians and like me Indigenous, the people of the Arctic were as foreign to me as were Asians or Africans – from their languages to their life styles. They are simply and truly, awesome! 

The Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017 invited me to be a part of their upcoming extravaganza. For this, I am eternally grateful as it has greatly enriched my life and, I hope and trust, those of many northerners.

The tour will be performing (starting next week) for several communities across the Arctic – communities that would otherwise never have the chance to witness the magic most Canadians have experienced in a spectacular air show. 

And the best thing is that there are no strings attached. The tour will be performing for the entertainment pleasure of Northern Canadians - simply for their pleasure. 

From my part, I have stories to share. The weather! The landscape! The adventure of getting in and out and about! And the best of all -  the people...the carvers, drummers, singers and hunters...the seamstresses, youth, Elders and the Newfoundlanders who have made the arctic their homes...

I have so much to share. Here I come...

Monday, April 10, 2017

Donald Trump - consequences for Canada

Donald Trump's election will have effects on Canada.

I have learned a few things in my life. None are certain, none but this one: "Before you turn 50, your body takes care of you. After you turn 50, you have to care for your body." That is for true.

Everything else - anything else - ??? I can, however, honestly and sincerely say that I would not have wanted my mom and dad to have lived in the U.S. during the last decade of their lives. I am happy to see the aged, the poor and minorities cared for to the extent that they are through our medical system.

I can also say that I appreciate the perspective Canada has in regards to education. Over the past years, I have seen, first hand, the effects of standardized testing. Education in the U.S. tends to be exclusive. Vouchers and standardized tests clearly favour a certain group over others. We, here in Canada, have a system that is more humane and inclusive.

Heads up Canada, as the Trump administration begins to tighten strings in health care and education. Accountability is going to take on a stronger place in education. We Canadians believe that working with children is different than working with automobiles. We believe that there is a better alternative to accountability and that is trust.

I would much rather look at my child's teacher and say, "I trust you with my little girl". Better trust than, "I will be watching you. You will be held accountable."

Our American neighbours could sell ice to the Inuit. They will sell accountability.

Canada...trust trumps accountability, everywhere but most certainly here in this sanctuary called Canada.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

My tattoo's name is Clément

Clément first came into my life with the release of my book, The Journal of Etienne Mercier. That was 20 years ago.

At that time, I didn't realize the impact he would have on my life nor did I realize the number of times he would appear in my writings (I am Raven, Raven's Greatest Creation, Beneath Raven Moon, Raven and Whale...).

Over the years, with the help of Elders and life's greatest teacher (living), I grew to understand that Creator has given me the same gift he gave Clément; the ability to use and to succeed on my wit.

Over time, I have learned to be grateful. I have learned to be grateful for the sacred medicines. And I have learned how to use them. For protection, I travel with Sweetgrass. I cleanse with Sage. I always have some form of Ceder with me. And I offer tobacco in prayer. I pray with tobacco and I pray through my flutes. I respect all our relations. 

And today, through this tattoo,  I acknowledge Clément's contribution in my life and in so doing, I honour him. 

Thank you Gordon Miller for the beautiful watercolour of Clément (...taken from the Jornnal of Etienne Mercier and showing above). Miigwetch to hyper-realistic tattoo artist Potter of Forever Young in Toronto for my half sleeve - his depiction of my friend, Clément.

The last line from my book The Journal of Etienne Mercier says it all. (I really should learn to read into the words I write)

"No matter. I will get food then I will come back and do what I should have done two year ago. I will make the picture of my frien Clément."

Monday, August 22, 2016

August means "back to school"

August means "back to school"! 

I never thought I'd be saying this at this stage of my life but here it is, "back to school"!

Isn't going back to school something we all dread? After high school, it was university. After university, it was back to school as a teachers and then as a principal. And now, I'm headed back as a touring author and as one who believes in the power of reading and in the rights of every youth.

My good friend and agent, Chris Patrick, is in Europe for a month. Prior to leaving, Chris  booked me for three full months. I'll be in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and all over Ontario. And the truth is, I'm so looking forward to going back to school!