Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Historic Burrard bridge

A few weeks ago, I did a series of posts on bridges. When I had the opportunity to take this photo of the Burrard Bridge, I thought the old girl definitely deserved a place in the pantheon.

Every time I drive across this one, I want to stop in the middle and take photos of the tiled central span and the ship's prow, decorated with the bust of a woman, that seems to leap directly out of the cement.

When I walked across for a better look recently, it wasn't the first time. At UBC in 1967, my new friend Pat and I walked for hours and miles. From Totem Park residence, we walked to Kerrisdale and back without pausing. Downtown, we sat through Dr. Zhivago twice, then walked back to UBC.

One spring evening, Pat and I walked downtown and back from Fourth and Dunbar, by way of the Burrard Bridge. At 2 am, as we strolled along deep in conversation, the police stopped to ask what we girls were doing out so late.

"Just walking and talking," we said. We weren't aware of it at the time, but with all that deep conversation, we were also preparing to cross the bridge to our adult selves.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stop and smell the shrub roses

At King George station, the shrub roses are flowering. They're a bit late, along with everything else, but they're in bloom.

Roses have the loveliest fragrance, I think, though this week I brought in a heavenly bunch of lily of the valley in from the garden.

Still, there is something special these roses. They are single-petalled, like the wild roses I remember from childhood. These are a little bigger than their wild cousins, but their perfume is just as rich and the dark pink just as gorgeous.

Like their wild cousins, they're survivors. Over the years of commuting I have more than once worried for their lives when they were brutally and unevenly cut back nearly to the ground. But they keep coming back. Each year they bloom from spring to late fall.

Each time I pass, I pause to sniff one individual bloom. It's a little ritual to remind me to enjoy life. No matter how rushed our pace, I tell myself, I have time to literally stop and smell the roses.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Today's the day

I'm a little nervous, but I think it will be fun. This afternoon at the EAC conference, I'm giving a session on blogging as a writing and editing practice.

Though I've been doing it since 2009, I'm far from expert. But it's been a great journey and I've learned a lot. For one thing, a daily blog post is a fantastic source of discipline.

By becoming a blogger, I've put myself in a position that obliges me to write and edit every day. Well, OK, I confess. I don't actually have to write every day, because I've learned how to write a few posts and schedule them to come out on future days.

I do have to edit daily. It's only once a post is visible on screen that I can really get my editing teeth into it. Editing to create a circular structure in a short post is also fun and challenging.

Brevity is a hallmark of most blog posts. I'm amazed by how much I can cut. But then, I'm truly motivated to avoid expecting the reader to scroll down. The reason is simple. Most don't.

Another aspect is visual editing. Online paragraphs are definitely shorter than those on the page. Guidelines for online contributors to Suite 101 suggest a maximum of 75 words per paragraph. With all those academic paragraphs behind me, I've found that a challenge.

Then there are links. This year, the EAC conference is on Twitter, so I've linked up this post. Pictures can also be added -- if taken by others, the source must be acknowledged, and photos linked to their original websites too.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

OK baby, let's edit

Grammar bites, you say? Grammar aficionado Frances Peck begs to disagree. She likes it, even in the early morning. Frances will be delivering Grammar Bytes at 8:15, and a couple of times more before the conference is over.

Editing in the age of E-everything kicks off officially this morning with a keynote address by veteran Vancouver journalist Shelly Fralic. Following that, editors will adjourn to a variety of sessions on educational publishing, workshop delivery, storytelling, indexing the memoirs of politicians and much more.

With an hour for lunch, participants will have the opportunity to socialize. Some will enjoy catch-up time with out-of-town friends while others may choose to swap their latest information.

Afternoon sessions offer a panel on editing for digital media, info on starting an editing business, twediting (and yes, that is spelled correctly). Two indexing sessions and a French language session for editing online courses are also offered in the afternoon. After a refreshment break for networking, EAC members will attend the AGM.

The EAC Awards Banquet will take place at the Segal School of Business. While enjoying a three course meal, the assembly will cheer for their colleagues who have won this year's awards.

The final part of the evening is just for laughs. EAC members always enjoy the annual OOPs awards, featuring the bloopers that have been voted most hilarious. The conference continues tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Editors and indexers gathering in Vancouver

The editors are coming. It's the annual conference of the EAC, the Editors' Association of Canada, and editors from across the nation (and possibly beyond) are converging on SFU Harbour Centre.

Word to the wise: mind your ps and qs and your punctuation too. This is the group that holds a contest every year to see who can ferret out the most bizarre editing failures. The association's drive-by editors grab some great pictures and catch some hilarious mistakes.

The EAC opening reception runs between 5 and 7 in the Segal Centre. Features of this fun include photo ops, prize draws, a cash bar, a steady stream of tweets and even a roving reporter, in the form of your humble servant.

We editors haven't seen each other since last year in Montreal, when we sampled wine and took part in a blind taste test to award the crown to one of Montreal's top bagels. Who won? St. Viateur or the Fairmont Hotel? Well, you had to be there.

The indexers began gathering last night too, but this time they weren't collecting information for indexes. They took time out to enjoy a social gathering and a meal at the Kingston Taphouse and Grille. They're part of the conference too. Indexers have their banquet on Friday and editors on Saturday.

Editing in the age of e-everything. As well as the Indexing Society of Canada, PEAVI, the Professional Editors' Association of Vancouver Island, will be there too. It's going to be a great conference!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stepping with confidence into the rosy unknown

Image from stresshack.com

Humans love the familiar and known; the unknown is often perceived as a threat.

One explanation is that to stay alive, the body needs to maintain a certain homeostasis, that is, a state of balance that is by its nature resistant to changes that may threaten it. Homeostasis is maintained by a series of negative feedback systems; thus, humans have a biologically based tendency to resist change.

It doesn't have to be that way. We can learn how our system works, and how to invite and welcome positive change into our lives. Simple techniques can be used to maintain the healthy stability that sustains us without unduly pandering to the automatic and unconscious fear of the unknown.

The basis of life is breath. To soothe the mind and expand the awareness, controlled and conscious breathing has been known and used in many societies for thousands of years. We of the fast modern lifestyles would do well to return to awareness of our breath. By the regular practice of conscious breathing, we can easily and gently re-center ourselves in the flow of life.

Though we never know what fate has in store, remembering how to breathe cultivates the life affirming ability to move with confidence into the eternally unfolding unknown.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Canucks make the playoffs and Skytrain down

Last night I was part of something I usually take care to avoid: a big noisy crowd. No sooner had I got on the Sky Train than Control came on the PA system to announce a medical emergency had caused closures on the line ahead.

The recommendation was immediate and clear. Go back the way you came, transfer to the other line and skirt the problem. I left home at 5 and didn't get downtown until quarter to 7. It was pretty wild.

First we crossed over and went back the other way. When we got to Commercial Broadway, we had to wait with a crush of people on a packed platform. Most of them were wearing Canucks jerseys, and many were following the hockey game on their iphones.

When the Vancouver team scored, the fans chanted as one, like a trained chorus, "Go Canucks, go Canucks!" The train came and we piled on. People kept holding the doors to let in more. With the train underway the chanting began again.

It was uncomfortable being crushed between the wall and a suitcase. But it was also fun to be part of a large, boisterous but friendly crowd, even though that is something I usually make a point of avoiding. It can be liberating to experience something we normally refuse.

When the meeting was over, a colleague said, "Girls, we have to get out of Dodge." We skedaddled before the game was over and got seats on a half empty train. By the time the Canucks won in double overtime, we were already halfway home. Go Canucks!

Good thing, I thought. One boisterous crowd is enough in a day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How plebeian

My Dad loved reading the classics, and he used to lecture us about ancient societies. (My more pragmatic Mom dismissively referred to his beloved ancients as "those old Greeks.")

One day I while I was reading, I came across the word plebeian and asked Dad the meaning.

Apparently it was the question he'd been waiting for. He went on and on, lecturing me on the social classes of ancient Rome, the patricians and plebeians.

Then he explained about the contemporary connotation of the word plebeian, its association with vulgarity and ignorance.

I latched onto that immediately. Whenever my siblings said or did something less than classy, I would look down my nose and remark, "How plebeian."

They retaliated by stealing my term and applying it to me. For a few months, the favoured mode of criticism around our house was to say in a haughty tone, "How plebeian."

Monday, May 23, 2011

The dark side of a vacant house

Photo: This scene is near Houston, Texas, but the atmosphere reminds me of Knicely's house.

Photo by

In rural Alberta, a vacant house opposite our farm belonged to our neighbours, the Knicelys. I wasn't sure why they left, but thought it was because the place was spooky. The front and side walls, clad in faded and weather-beaten shingles, were visible from the road.

The back wall, unseen from the road, was a very dark brown. For some reason, its wooden boards never faded, in spite of bleaching sun, drifting snow and powerful prairie winds.

I felt drawn to this dark wall, but I was feared it. Every once in a while, we three kids would go over for a quick heart-in-the-mouth peek. Holding our breath, my brother and I followed our older sister through the overgrown grass, took one look and ran.

We kept our distance from that dark face with its single high window, and never went there alone. Perhaps we needed to share our sense of guilt about trespassing.

The mind works in mysterious ways. Rationally, I knew that house was perfectly innocuous, and that wall was no different from the others. For reasons I still can't explain, I loved being spooked by that dark wall.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yellow crayons invisible at night

Writing about mudpies got me thinking about other childhood games. When my daughter began to tell me about the Edwardian Farm show, I remembered about yellow crayons.

"The women used to embroider by the light of oil lamps," she said, "with no central heating."

"Been there, done that," I replied. "And we used to draw and colour on any paper we got, which was not much."

On the farm, we kids were always hounding Mom for paper. She doled it out one piece at a time from her writing pad.

When she decided we'd had enough (she needed to save some for letter writing) we used whatever paper we could find, even taking the labels off the empty Carnation Milk tins to draw on the back.

Drawing and colouring took place around the oilcloth-clad the kitchen table, and we knew not to use the yellow crayon at night, because the marks it made were invisible in the dim light.

Consequently, our yellow crayons were long and new-looking, in sharp contrast to the others which were usually worn down and often broken. In the daytime, we were usually outside, so yellow crayons rarely got much use.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Making clothes for dolls and teddy bears

Photo: At a Montreal monument, George sports a white linen suit with silk shirt and boutonniere
With the freshness of imagination, kids can make nearly anything. As a kid, I loved to make clothes for dolls and teddy bears.

My first efforts were disappointing. The seams gaped and the buttonholes were sloppy. As our Welsh neighbour said, upon inspecting some of my hand-sewn button holes, "The stitches should be smaller, dear. You must have patience."

But patience didn't arrive till much later. Meanwhile, I kept sewing. Discarded clothing was treasure. A worn-out crinoline became a doll's bridal veil; an old sock a sweater vest for Teddy.

Many years ago when my daughter got George, she asked me to make him a wardrobe. Over a period of years, we created many outfits. To this day, I see a bit of cloth and think, "That would be nice for George." The part that sews for George never seems to grow up.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mud pies

Around age nine, I started baking mud pies. Bertha's Bakery was a small hollow grove of trees in the back yard where I set up shop. With my brother's help, I smoothed out the earth floor and added shelves.

Dad was a carpenter and handyman so he had a tool shed with lots of different materials: gravel, sand, sawdust and lime.

I decorated my mud pies with berries in season, and one day when I saw an open bag of lime, I had the brainstorm of icing them. Eager to scale new culinary heights, I got myself an empty tin and helped myself to some of this delightful "icing sugar."

It was summer and the huckleberries were ripe, so I gathered some of those and juiced them. I was going to make pink icing for some clay cupcakes I had just "baked."

To my astonishment, when I mixed the huckleberry juice with the "icing sugar," the mixture began to bubble and the tin grew warm in my hands. Dad was at his workbench filing a saw, so I took the smoking mixture over and showed him.

"It's getting hot, Daddy. Why is it smoking?"

"That's quicklime," he said. "When you mix it with the acid in the berry juice, you get a chemical reaction."

I was impressed me, but disappointed too. Making pink icing for my mud cakes wasn't going to be as easy as I thought.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Roof of North America

Photo, afternoon view on the Yellowhead highway

The Rocky Mountains form a long chain that acts as a backbone to the continent.

Driving through the Yellowhead Pass last summer, I saw the headwaters of the Fraser River, which rises as little more than a creek, high up in those mountains.

The Fraser, which flows into the Pacific at Vancouver, is only one of the mighty rivers arising in the Northern Rockies. From there, water finds its way to the Arctic Ocean and to Hudson Bay on the Atlantic.

From southern Alberta and Montana, the Milk River flows into the Missouri River and thence to south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Thought I haven't been able to pinpoint it, the actual roof of the continent, from which water flows to three oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, must be there in the southern Rockies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Desert kites and buffalo jumps

A recent archaeological discovery in Syria has revealed the purpose of puzzling ancient formations known, because of their shape, as desert kites.

On May 7 on CBC Radio, the host of the fascination program Quirks and Quarks interviewed an archeologist from the Smithsonian who has been involved with the recent archeological work at Tell Kuran in northeastern Syria.

The discovery of the bones of at least 93 gazelles confirm that the purpose of these stone corrals was hunting: the fence-like shapes were used to drive herds of gazelles into a trap where they could be slaughtered.

On the other side of the world, ancient people used similar methods to trap gazelles as those used by the native peoples of the Canadian prairies. Evidence of this old hunting practice is now commemorated by an interpretive centre at Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, in southern Alberta. I mentioned this place in a recent post about Fort Macleod.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Overdressed vehicle atypical on Vancouver streets

Seeing this vehicle parked downtown stopped me in my tracks. No doubt as the driver -- or should I say decorator -- intended.

Definitely, this is not the typical vehicle seen on Vancouver streets. Here, it stands out as a true original.

I haven't been to Karachi, but from some pictures I've seen, I think this car would fit in better there, as a nice match for some of the Karachi bus fleet.

Except for the Go Canucks! slogan, of course.

But isn't the license plate brilliant? It's so Canadian.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hurrah for Adverbs

Cover image of Plotnik's book from Viva Editions

Like other fashions, writing styles change. These days, in some quarters, using adverbs is frowned on. This is a trend of which I do not approve. I admit to having a weakness for adverbs; in fact, some might argue that I am inordinately fond of adverbs, as I have admitted in this blog before.

Reading the May issue of The Writer, I was delighted to find my affection for adverbs vindicated by none other than Arthur Plotnik, a respected editor and author of Spunk and Bite: a Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style (Random House, 2007).

In an article entitled 'Superlatives 101,' Plotnik advises writers to "put aside any old-fashioned bias against the -ly adverb, one of the best devices for propping up a bland adjective with energetic descriptions of manner or degree...How sweet? kneebucklingly sweet (from David Foster Wallace). How scary? horripilatingly scary (makes the hair stand on end)." (p26)

Incidentally, the first sentence of the New York Times obituary of the influential David Foster Wallace, contains six -ly adverbs. (He died in 2008 at age 46.)

Plotnik does add a caution that "the adverb must sound fresh. Be inventive and playful," he advises, and "... don't overdo it." (p 26)

I could rest my case here. But I feel compelled to mention the title of Plotnik's upcoming book, due out June 1: Better than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives (Viva Editions.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cat enjoys spring flowers

Professor Plum enjoys the spring weather as much as we humans do. He likes to sit among the flowers or on the porch.

Sometimes he sits in the driveway, about a yard away from his fluffy orange friend.

The two old fellows just enjoy being together. Like longstanding human friends, they don't always feel the need to talk -- just to be near each other.

Cold spring makes cherry blossoms last longer

Every coin has two sides. The good thing about the very late cold spring is that we get to enjoy the cherry blossoms longer. These blossoms I photographed just a few days ago on East Broadway, on my way to work. On the left is a pink "snowfall" of cherry blossom petals, taken three or four days ago.

True, I didn't wash the back deck until Friday, but now we'll have the lilacs to enjoy while we sit out there; they're just coming on. Usually, by this time of year they're long over. And yes, we do have an umbrella over the patio furniture!

Below: Typical Vancouver cherry tree heavy with bloom, seen during a brief interlude of sunshine.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

TWS Reading at Take Five Cafe

Last night I had the privilege of reading one of my short stories in a public forum, thanks to the TWS Reading Series organized and hosted by Fiona Scott and Marni Wedin.

Reading one's own work in front of a group can be nerve-wracking. Fortunately, it is also exhilarating.

First up was Claudia Cornwall, a BC book prize winner. She read from an upcoming book that will launch in the fall. The subject is Curt Lang, a Beat era artist from Vancouver.

Janie Chang read from the novel she is currently writing about a ghostly woman stuck between worlds in 1930s China. Merylee Smith stepped out with her first public poetry reading, and Elen Ghulam read a story about a woman whose main claim to fame is stubbornness.

Kendall Anne Dixon read about healing emotional wounds and Sylvia Taylor about the sea. These authors were a talented lot, whose non-writing skills included storytelling, painting, Shiatsu therapy and flamenco dance.

The evening closed with poet Susan McCaslin, who read from her eleventh book of poetry, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press, 2011). Afterwards, Susan answered questions. When asked about the writing and publishing life, she reminded us to be persistent, a message that writers need to hear frequently.

After all, writing is, as Nancy Lee says, "a career of attrition." The ones who get published are those determined souls who never quit writing and revising.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A motley collection of mementoes

Over my years of teaching ESL to adults, I have received a lot of little gifts. Some sit on the my office window sill and book shelves.

The Polish doll came from a long-ago student who was upset after he spent a lot of time on his essay and didn't get the result he hoped for. When I asked him if he thought I'd been unfair, and offered to reread the work, he calmed down. We had a heartfelt conversation about the situation, then chatted and laughed about other things. At the end of the term, he thanked me for my teaching and gave me the doll.

Why have I kept it there so long? Perhaps it serves as a reminder to speak from the heart, even when that feels challenging. In my work, the words I must say are not always what others want to hear.

The felt camel came from a friend who was teaching in Quetta, Pakistan. She bought it at a camel market. It reminds me of the words she said to me early in my teaching career when I was feeling insecure. Was I doing it right? Were my teaching methods correct? Judi's frank green eyes looked into mine. "It's all right," she said. "You are enough."

The ceramic figure is a South American musical instrument, an ocarina, and the Afghani doll I bought with my daughter at the annual Hycroft Christmas fair. We liked her face.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The view from the office window

The best thing about the office I share with a colleague at VCC is the east-facing view of beautiful trees. Every season is different, and each has its own beauty.

At present, through the fresh new leaves of the maples that sweep the outside of the window, some late cherry blooms are visible.

When I enter this room, whether it's drenched with morning sunshine or dull and grey as it reflects the spring rain, I am grateful for the ever changing view and the sound of birds outside the window.

Each morning I enjoy a quiet coffee in the silence. And when I'm tired after a busy day, I like to sit quietly at my desk, take a few minutes to let my mind drift and dream.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why young beggars in a wealthy land?

In recent years, we've seen increasing numbers of beggars on the streets of downtown Vancouver, and many of them look young and healthy. I ask myself why these youths choose to sit on the sidewalks, asking for money from strangers.

Recently, I saw one young man using the language of advertising to beg. He was holding up a sign saying "SEX: there, now that I've got your attention, please give me money." Or words to that effect. He didn't actually ask, just advertised.

Often beggars have dogs with them. Most of these animals look well-fed and well-kept. Apparently they, like their humans, depend on begging for a living.

This is a wealthy country and we still have a social safety net. All kinds of social services, both public and private, are available for those who ask for them.

Work is also available for those who seek it. When the Canada line was built, labourers came from other countries to fill the quota of workers needed.

In the hungry thirties, when people were truly in need and there was no social safety net, begging was a sign of shame and broken pride. Until recently, it was considered unacceptable except as a final resort.

What's changed that's made it so common for young people to turn themselves into beggars?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brazilian skipping songs from a friend

When I did my recent series of posts on skipping songs, I put out a call for skipping songs from around the world.

Silvia responded with some lyrics from Brazil. English translations appear in parentheses after each line. It's interesting how the are so similar to the lyrics to Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear. These lines also instruct the skipper on what moves to make.

Um homem bateu em minha porta (a man knocks at my door)

E eu abri (and I open it)

Senhoras e senhores, pule num pé só. (Ladies and gentlemen, skip on just one foot)

Senhoras e senhores, põe a mão no chão. (Ladies and gentlemen, put your hand on the ground)

Senhoras e senhores, dê uma rodadinha (Ladies and gentlemen, turn around)

E vá pro olho da rua!" (and go out)

Back in the fall of 2009, Silvia was the friend who got me started blogging. I challenged her, and she took me up. Then I had to challenge myself.

Silvia showed me HiStats and I was intrigued by the idea of seeing whether people were reading my blog, and if so, where.

Speak Portuguese? Check out Silvia's blog here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Welsh Men's Choir prepares for a road trip

On Saturday night, the Vancouver Welsh Men's choir played Shaughnessy United Church, a farewell concert here before they begin a Northern BC Tour that will include Prince Rupert and Quesnel, and five points between.

The songsters were in fine fettle. As the rain cleared, the church was bathed in evening sunlight. From the balcony, we soaked up every pristine note.

This concert presented an astonishing variety of spirituals, Welsh hymns and folk songs, along with a signature favourite from Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. David Buchan accompanied on piano.

This choir's lighthearted approach adds to the pleasure of hearing their music. Though their soloists and their mastery of a capella can bring tears to the eyes, there are touches of humour too.

The array of silly instruments used to accompany a resounding rendition of Jabberwocky made the audience laugh. More laughter followed when Choir Director Jonathan Quick claimed that this nonsense song had been translated into over a hundred languages.

The Welsh Men's choir is a Vancouver institution. From a small start thirty years ago by a few Welsh expatriates, it has grown into one of the largest male choirs in Canada. The men come from more than twenty ethnic backgrounds, and the music comes from everywhere. The northern tour stops are in for a real treat.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Earth Abides

The moon,
seen dimly through wintry cloud
is a pale, blurred crescent.
What does it portend?

As I walk
the changing moon moves,
appearing ever brighter
in the even gaps
between tall cypresses.
Is it rising or setting?

Dusk deepens;
daily we live careless and forgetful
in the midst of mystery.

Beneath the streetlights we fail to heed it.
Yet nightly we are blessed
with the faithful support of the moon's lantern,
showing us our shadowy earthly path.

Though we forget her daily
in our careless unawareness,
each day in mysterious munificence
our earth abides.

Carol Tulpar

Saturday, May 7, 2011

At last I did it!

Photo: The collection is named after the last poem, Earth Abides

I've finally published my first chapbook. Some of these poems go back twenty years or more. The first time I discussed the project was with a friend from Edmonton was at least fifteen years ago. Her encouragement was one of the early conversations that put in place the determination that I would eventually put my poetry out there. Between then and now, the help, encouragement and advice of many people moved me toward the day of this publication.

As part of my work at the Writers' Studio at SFU, I took a publishing course with Mary Schendlinger. When she assigned us to plan and budget for a publication project, I knew I knew the time had come not only to plan my poetry chapbook, but to make it happen.

Finally, my little book of poetry is out in the world, waiting for its audience to discover it.

York Factory

Photo: York Factory in the 1770s, by Samuel Hearne, courtesy of Parks Canada.

York Factory was built at the mouth of the Hayes River in 1684. What we know today as The Bay began as the Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay.

In 1697, after a protracted French-English struggle, Pierre LeMoyne d'Iberville captured York Factory and renamed it Fort Bourbon.

After 1760, Scottish and Metis traders took control of the Montreal based fur trade and worked from York Factory, where many Aboriginal people exchanged pelts for European goods. The trading post finally closed in 1957.

Today York Factory in contemporary Manitoba is a Parks Canada National Historic Site.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fort Rupert, or Waskaganish in Cree

Photo: The Rupert River, courtesy of The Dominion

Waskaganish, also called Fort Rupert, was founded in 1668 in northern Quebec by the recently formed Hudson Bay Company (est 1760). This was the first European settlement in the Far North.

This name has changed with the vicissitudes of history. The founder of the original settlement, the Sieur de Groseilliers.

Between 1686 and 1713, it was controlled by the French and called Fort-Saint-Charles. The Bay company re-established a post in 1777 named Fort Rupert. From the late 1700s to the early 1900s, Waskaganish-Fort Rupert remained a busy trading centre where canoe brigades came and went.

In 1974, Hydro Quebec began a series of hydroelectric dams that would eventually generate about half the province's electricity. Called the James Bay project, this initiative brought the government into conflict with the Cree and Naskapi, whose lands and lives would be impacted dramatically.

In 2002, the Quebec government and the Grand Council of the Crees signed agreements on environmental rules for the construction of further hydro dams involving the Rupert River.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moose Factory, Ontario

Photo: Moose Cree Discoveries and Adventures

Moose Factory, on an island in the Moose River, was the second Hudson's Bay trading post in British North America, after Fort Rupert. The town of Moosonee lies on the shore near where the river flows into James Bay.

This remote community, occupied mostly by Cree people, is the main setting for the award-winning novel Through Black Spruce (Penguin, 2008), by Ojibway author Joseph Boyden. Boyden's second book, it won the Giller Prize.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rocky Mountain House, Alberta

Photo: Interpretive trails at Rocky Mountain house National Historic Site, courtesy Parks Canada

At the end of the fur trade line on the North Saskatchewan River in 1799, two rival companies set up trading posts and entered into fierce competition for furs. During the next 76 years, the trade at Rocky Mountain House involved nine different aboriginal groups.

David Thompson, the great map maker and explorer, was also a fur trader. During the time he was seeking a pass through the Rockies, he stayed at the Northwest Company post at Rocky Mountain House.

In the Rocky Mountains about halfway between Banff and Jasper, the forts no longer stand. What remains today is a national historic site where once two large colonial enterprises fought over the fur trade.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories

Photo: Courtesy of Spectacular Northwest Territories.

Our Lady of Good Hope Church, with its beautiful frescoes, is a National Heritage site. It was built after 1865, and the murals were begun while Father Emile Petitot was in charge of the church.

This early trading post of the Northwest Company is located near the rapids of the great Mackenzie River at the same latitude as Great Bear Lake. According to the Legislative Assembly website, the traditional name, Radili Ko, means "place of the rapids." The government reports a 2010 population of only 567 people.

In 1805, this first trading post on the Lower Mackenzie was established by the Northwest Company (est. 1783 as a rival to the Hudson Bay Company). After a couple of moves, the present settlement was established in 1839.

Early trade involved various aboriginal groups: the Hare, Mountain Dene, Inuvialuit and Sahtuotine.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Photo: The Fortress of Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Courtesy of Parks Canada.

Although the English appear to have visited the harbour in 1597, the fortress of Lousibourg was not built until 1713. In the early to mid 1700s, Louisbourg was a fortified French town and the centre of the cod fishery. Its location made it a convenient shipping point linking Europe with the "New World" of North America.

The fortress of Louisbourg was much contested during the early colonial history of Canada, and traded back and forth between the French and English as these two empire-building nations jockeyed for international influence. The English finally took control in 1758.

The rebuilding of the fortress ruins began in the 1960s. During the course of the reconstruction, archeological work has unearthed millions of artifacts. Today a visit to Louisbourg is a trip backwards through time.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The fortress at Quebec

Photo: This is taken inside the fortress at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

The major residence of Canada's Governor-General is Rideau Hall in Ottawa. However, the GG has a second residence here in La Citadelle, dating back to the time when Quebec was the capital of the colony of Lower Canada.

This lovely home is often used for ceremonies such as investing the recipients of the Order of Canada. Located within the walls of the fort, it has a fabulous view of the city.

La Citadelle is also the home of Quebec's 22nd, or Vingt-Deuxieme Regiment, commonly known in English Canada as the Van Doos.