Monday, June 15, 2009

"F" is for History

Your history is history, did we even stop to wave good-bye?

One of the nagging concerns of Community Linkages has always been the next generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Our wish for them to be proud and knowledgeable of their cultural history. Armed with that knowledge we wish for them to be innovative just as the mariners of the past became the steelworkers of New York.

With that believe Community Linkages has always stressed the importance of history as a part of our educational curriculum. Recently a couple members of Community Linkages attended a conference at Memorial University examining Newfoundland and Labrador's place in Canada on the 60th anniversary of Confederation with Canada. There was one valuable piece of take away information from that conference: We as Canadians need to know more about each other. We don't know about ourselves, we don't know about Canada, we don't teach our relationship in joining Canada and Canada knows next to nothing about us.

The Dominion Institute investigated each province's study of Canadian History. The highest grade for their study of history? Yes, of course it is Quebec. The poorest grade was given to - sadly you probably guessed that too: Newfoundland and Labrador. For me the biggest crime is in scoring of educating our youth as to the regional history of our overall place in Canada.

The only conclusion that can be drawn is one that validates the conclusion of the Memorial University converence on 60 years in Canada and the perpetual concerns of the CLCC: We don't know about ourselves, we don't teach our relationship in joining Canada and Canada knows next to nothing about us.

Is this good enough? Is the curriculum of Canadian and especially Newfoundland and Labrador history and culture adequate? Once again we are failing our children, once again Newfoundland and Labrador is an embarrassment in a national study, in the very subject we claim to wear most honourably.

What is our history and culture worth? Apparently very little.

Quebec's report card and detailed report.

Newfoundland and Labrador's report card and detailed report.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One Man's Crusade II (a follow up)

In April Community Linkages Blog reprinted an article from a lone crusader Gerry Higgins who is battling to inform people about the dangers of EMI from powerlines. Mr. Higgins sent us the following documentary clip from the folks of Tsawwassen BC:

Monday, June 8, 2009

On the Value of Rural, some borrowed thoughts from Anita Best

"Waste no opportunity to sing a song or play a tune. Learn how to hook a mat, dance the lancers or build a dory. Show your children how to skin a rabbit, make a figgy duff or trench potatoes... Show them where they came from and the stuff their ancestors were made of."

Usually I smack the snooze on my clock radio to steal myself another nine minutes, this morning though the words spoken by Anita Best on CBC radio brought me fast awake. Seldom is it heard in these modern times the need to grab onto what we hold dear as Newfoundlanders and as Labradorians, with the above words she had my ear.

I was listening to an excerpt of a speech given at convocation upon Ms. Best receiving her honourary degree from MUN. She expressed how important it was to the woman she would become to have been born in her Placentia Bay home of Merasheen. Thanking her family and "the many other singers of Merasheen and Tack’s Beach [who] sowed and nurtured the seeds of traditional song within me."

In Community Linkages we often struggle to put to words the true value of what it means to be a Newfoundlander or Labradorian. What it means to have grown up with our traditions, craft, culture and song. To make the argument that these intangible products of our early life have a true value in the people we become. It has a value not only in shaping our lives but an intrinsic value in the careers we follow, the lessons we learn that we in turn give back to our communities. In Ms. Best’s speech to the students of MUN could be found the true essence of why the CLCC was formed and from which we gain our strength:

"I hope that you will broaden and enrich your lives as engineers and academic professionals by participating in and passing on our intangible cultural heritage. Waste no opportunity to sing a song or play a tune. Learn how to hook a mat, dance the lancers or build a dory. Show your children how to skin a rabbit, make a figgy duff or trench potatoes. By all means read them stories from books, but tell them your stories too. Show them where they came from and the stuff their ancestors were made of." She writes.

Community Linkages is not blinded by a romanticized view of our past. We do not express a desire to return to a storybook vision of outport Newfoundland and Labrador, instead we recognize that our communities are in transition, in order to flourish, our rural communities will find their place in a modern world. The true strength of Newfoundland and Labrador has always been in its survivability in the toughest of situations. It is innovation, community leadership, and individual sponsorship that will spark new life into our communities just as it has for generations. Ms. Best too expresses the necessity to evolve and adapt: "You can change the recipes—every generation has the responsibility to use tradition to create their own art! Chris Brookes, Figgy Duff and CODCO did it in our generation, WGB and Great Big Sea did it in theirs; Duane Andrews, Graham Wells, Billy Sutton and many others are doing it now."

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have crafted a good life from a land that is at once brutal and beautiful. Ms. Best told the convocation "...a long line of traditional singers and storytellers [have] collectively crafted a rich culture from the weather, rock and water; shore, sea and sky of the Newfoundland outport, which fellow bayman Rex Murphy has called “the house of our being.”"

It is up to each of us as Newfoundlanders and as Labradorians to recognize “the house of our being." In it we will find our resolve.

With great thanks to Anita Best who sent me the transcript of her speech and allowed me to use portions of it here.

Monday, June 1, 2009


In praise of Unsung Heroes.

Part of being a member of Community Linkages is promoting the positive things that are happening in our communities. Media attention too often focuses on the fading breath of our rural communities; we often fail to see the aspects of our communities that are very much alive.

A red pump truck glistens in an open garage door. A fixture of any rural community is the fire hall. The volunteers who stand ready at the drop of a hat to leap into action are true community heroes. As the child of a volunteer firefighter I know the disruption to life that comes with having your father leave on a moments notice to fight for the lives and security of someone else. I know the anguish that comes with the sirens late in the night, and the relief when your dad returns within the hour. "Chimney Fire" he would simply say. And on those times when he does not return within the hour a family is left to fret, hoping for his safety and praying for the families who would be wrapped in blankets outside a charred home. I know the hushed conversation through the walls that would tell me that a person lost their life that night.

With this tremendous responsibly our volunteer firefighters find time to fund raise for their supplies and for charities all across Newfoundland and Labrador. They maintain their engine and hall and offer these facilities for community events.

On Sunday the CLCC had the pleasure of hosting a public meeting at the fire hall in Bay Roberts. A gentleman from the hall let us in and before walking upstairs I had a peak at the truck waiting perpetually to burst from the doors to aid those in crisis. I was reminded of what it meant to have my father as a firefighter.

Thanks to the firefighters of Bay Roberts for making us guests and for those who volunteer so much of themselves so we have the comfort of a safe community. Our sincere thanks.