Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Canwrite! Awards Gala gathering in Orillia addressed by James Bartleman

Keynote speaker at the CAA Awards Gala James Bartleman signs a book for Connie, a member who travelled from Montreal by train for Canwrite!

An Officer of the Order of Canada and the recipient of many awards including more than a dozen honorary degrees, this remarkable humanitarian, a former diplomat, represented Canada in many countries.

Between 2002 and 2007, Bartleman was the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. A member of the Rama Chippewa First Nation, he was inspired by books when quite young.

He established a series of summer reading camps to inspire children from remote communities, commenting, "The northern half of Ontario still has no roads." 

This remarkable project involved creating a book club that undertook the responsibility of ensuring that every child living in a fly-in community received a book. He "shamed" 12 universities and 4 colleges into hosting the reading camps and got the army to help with delivery. More than a million donated books were collected for this initiative, and 300 university students ran the camps for elementary school children from 87 communities. No book was wasted, and Frontier College has carried on with the camps since.

Canada's failure to provide social justice for her native peoples constitutes "one of the great unfinished pieces of our country," says Bartleman. The problem is that "no government will get elected on a platform of justice for natives. We need a sea change in social attitudes."

Mr. Bartleman was a humorous and inspiring speaker, well fitted to address Canadian Authors members and award winners. Even the famous local figure Stephen Leacock featured in the speaker's anecdotes. The lakeside home of this great Canadian humourist, who died in 1944, is now a musuem in Orillia. James Bartleman's grandmother was Leacock's cook, and Leacock saved the life of Bartleman's father's on the lake at Muskoka in 1946.

Along with his other accomplishments, Bartleman is an author of both fiction and non-fiction books.

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