Working People: A History of Labour in BC

March 2, 2014

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“Working People: the History of Labour in British Columbia” is a powerful documentary made up of thirty ‘vignettes,’ each story containing photographs, archival film footage and songs.

Some of the stories have already made the history books, others have not. 

One vignette, which I helped research is called “By Women, For Women” and tells the story of the SORWUC bank workers’ union organizing drive in the 1970s. 

“Working People” previews March 20 on BC’s Knowledge Network TV.

The complete series will be posted on the Labour Heritage Centre website soon–and distributed to schools throughout BC.

(Photo: CIBC at Victory Square in Vancouver. Workers at this branch were the first to join the bank workers’ local of SORWUC. (The building is now a film school.)

***

Now on magazine stands (March, 2014) is a featured article I have written in Women and Environments International Magazine based on research for the Working People vignette “By Women, For Women” and called “Women must do it for themselves: Organizing Working Women into SORWUC (1972-1986).” The article concludes, in part, “SORWUC shook up some of the toughest industries to organize–including banks and restaurants–and challenged the union movement’s complacency, holding up the ideal of independent unions, controlled by its membership.”

Susan Point – Coast Salish artist – a profile

January 3, 2014

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by Janet Nicol

When Coast Salish artist Susan Point was getting her start back in the 1980s, she found galleries weren’t interested in her work with glass. “They said it wasn’t a native medium,” she recalls. “I didn’t care.” That commitment to her own vision has served Point well. One of the West Coast’s most acclaimed indigenous artists, she is a groundbreaker within her community and beyond, working not only with glass, but also a variety of other media – everything from carving to printmaking. She has produced many public art projects and her numerous accolades include appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada and honorary doctorates from four British Columbia universities.

So begins a story about Susan Point and her remarkable artistic family in the spring issue of Galleries West magazine. The full story is on-line at

http://www.gallerieswest.ca/artists/profiles/on-point%3A-art-a-family-affair-for-renowned-coast-salish-arti/

Watch for Ms. Point’s upcoming exhibit of more than 300 prints at Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Gastown (Vancouver) this spring. A book of her prints will also be available. More information at http://www.spiritwrestler.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=2_98

Project of Heart

December 20, 2013

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PROJECT OF HEART

TEACHING THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS

by Janet Nicol

Sylvia Smith, an alternative high school teacher in Ottawa, never dreamed a buried episode in Canadian history would come to light with a few lines from a textbook she was using for her Grade 10 history class.

This is the cover story in the Winter issue of Our Times magazine and is now available on-line at http://ourtimes.ca/Featured_Story/article_328.php

Places of Her Heart – a book review

November 22, 2013

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Places of Her Heart: The Art and Life of Barbara Boldt, K. Jane Watt in conversation with Barbara Boldt, Fenton Street Press, Abbotsford, BC, 2012

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Barbara Boldt, a Fraser Valley artist, aged 82, has been painting British Columbia landscapes and portraits since the 1970s. Her biography was shaped by K. Jane Watt, an accomplished historian, who visited her regularly for coffee on Monday mornings. Their conversations turned to formal interviews, resulting in a coffee table book offering a rare glimpse of a German-Canadian’s life journey, accompanied by visually rich art work begun in Boldt’s middle years. Watt also had access to Boldt’s family archives and personal papers. Some of these treasured items, including drawings by the artist’s 19th century ancestors, also find their way in these pages.

We learn of Boldt’s comfortable childhood in the 1930s in rural Germany, on a patch of land named Stiegenhof, in the north Rhine-Westphalia region. The advent of the Second World War and Boldt’s father’s enlistment in the army are detailed. The war years, the bombings, the splitting up of family—and miraculous reunion is also chronicled. “This remembrance of loss can be multiplied millions of times over in the lives of others in wartime,” the author observes. “There can be no going back, no return to what once existed.” These memories will come to haunt and inform Boldt’s art.

In 1952, when Boldt was 22, her family immigrated to Canada. Boldt eventually married and raised three children in Nelson, later moving to Vancouver. Boldt first realized the magnitude of the German peoples’ culpability for the Jewish holocaust during her years in Nelson, having read an article in Time magazine. She also acknowledged her nation’s collective shame and the silences within her family.

After her children left home, Boldt began taking art lessons. Art soon became a passion that her marriage could not sustain and in 1980 Boldt divorced. “This period was both a time of letting go of the old and of leaping in to the new,” the author observes. Boldt moved to Fort Langley area and began to explore her ancestral roots, proud of the many artists in her family tree.

She reflected more deeply about her own past as well. As her art education progressed, Boldt developed a preference for realism, using the mediums of oils, pastels and watercolors. She also found working in her studio, using photographs she has taken of a landscape or person, suited her better than painting in the outdoors, on site. “Using a realistic style, I’d rather discover than invent the pattern and design in nature which a casual observer might fail to see,” she says. The author notes Boldt’s landscapes sometimes have an abstract quality—“of stone shaped by wind and tide.”

This is particularly evident after Boldt takes on a younger lover named Graydon. Her paintings flourish as she paints the mystery and beauty of the Alberta “Badlands” and the caves of Gabriola Island—as well as numerous portraits of Graydon. Among Boldt’s studies of stone is “Gaia”, a Greek word meaning “Mother Earth.” Her oil paintings of a favored Gulf Island site she calls “Gaia,” depict a rocky shoreline with honeycomb-like patterns and has a sensual quality. “Her paintings illuminate a world that seems static but catch a moment in time, a fleeting quality of light, a place on the cusp of change,” the author observes.

Boldt’s numerous exhibits, include a Fort Langley show in the 1990s, entitled “True to my Heart.” The exhibit was built around “seeing her life through the lens of her childhood self as it juxtaposed images of childhood with new work” the author writes. “It was a compendium of special times and visions that had made Barbara who she was as a woman, mother, friend and artist.”

The economic difficulties of being an artist and a single, older woman have been part of Boldt’s reality. Like many creative people, Boldt has also faced, reluctantly, the many time-consuming tasks involved in marketing her art. She has persisted, despite these challenges. Most difficult for Boldt has been the tragic loss of two of her children, both in their middle years. She confessed the pain will never pass, in a letter to a newspaper, where she addressed her losses, but also affirmed the importance of moving on. “I am a painter,” she wrote. “I like to paint the ever-rejuvenating miracle and beauty of Nature, fully aware that what has grown also must die in time.”

In 2000 Boldt moved from the Fort Langley neighborhood to nearby Glen Valley where she continues to teach art and holds open houses. Her art is masterful, as the final pages of reproductions in the book prove, her landscapes expansive and awe-inspiring. “The subject must be meaningful to me,” she says. “To my experience, to my memory—and it must be working from photographs that I have taken myself.” Included as well is a detailed appendix of Boldt’s prolific art and an index.

In the ‘Afterward’, the author offers her own thoughtful reflections about Boldt. The artist’s life stories are both “fiercely individual and surprisingly universal,” Watt believes. Boldt’s art is a reflection of the world around her, the author also contends, a “beauty that comes from simply being over time.” Time spent among these pages of text and images will surely lead the reader to agree.

Looks Like Daylight

November 16, 2013

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Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids, by Deborah Ellis

Author Interview and book review by Janet Nicol

“History impacts on the present,” says Deborah Ellis, discussing her latest book Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids in a recent telephone interview. “Situations grow from the past.” Ellis gained this understanding and a great deal more travelling across North America for more than two years, talking to aboriginal children and teenagers living on and off reserves. “Children don’t get recognized for having opinions,” she observes. “They have a lot to say.”

Instead of turning these interviews in to fiction, as Ellis does when writing award-winning novels for and about young people, she lets First Nations, Metis and Inuit youth tell their stories in their own words. “Half of the interviewees are Canadian and half are American,” she says, travelling with her tape recorder as far south as Texas, north to Iqaluit and along the Pacific coast to Haida Gwaii. “I attempt to keep myself out of the book as much as possible.” Even so, Ellis’ trademark empathy and respect for young people is evident in the trust and open responses she elicits.

Each of the 45 people interviewed is identified with a first name only, along with his or her age and a brief biography. Photos of some of the interviewees and scenes of their communities are included. All describe their realities with courage—both heart-wrenching and inspiring. Suicide and addiction issues—among other challenges—appear in some of the young people’s stories but so do their wise thoughts, selfless dreams and their wealth of talents and achievements.

“The interviews underlined for me the variety of experiences of aboriginal youth, good and bad,” Ellis says. She says the positive experiences for young people often occur “when they are able to get back to traditional practises and to connect with their elders.” Ellis also hopes adults reading the book will see it as a “wake up call” about the way young people are treated.

A forward by Loriene Roy, who is Anishinabe and a professor at the University of Texas, gives insightful and helpful context to these interviews. “These are the stories of young people who have inherited the challenges of colonialism,” she writes. …“Yet they live and, often, thrive.”

Tingo, aged 14, begins the collection. He describes a ‘family systems’ program he joined: “We talk a lot about grief because that’s been a big part of our lives as Native people—grief over losing our land, our language, our customs, our ways. Grief often comes out as trouble.” Tingo was born in Kelowna, British Columbia, and is Blackfoot on his mother’s side and Nicaraguan on his father’s. His young life has already taught him much as he concludes: “It’s your life. Find people who will help you live it.”

Mari, also age 14, says “I feel more Ojibwe than American.” She is active in a dozen different ways—from anti-smoking activism to clothing design. “The more I do, the more I want to do,” she says.

Pearl, aged 15, is from a Cree reserve in Ontario and determined to give back as a police officer when she becomes an adult. “If I become a police officer I’ll never use a car,” she says. “I’ll walk around and know what’s going on and people will know that they can trust me.”

For Tulane, aged 14, growing up in an artistic Navajo family in the American southwest, “Art helps us find our way back.” He is interviewed alongside his equally artistic sister, Myleka, aged 13, who says “I’d love it if other people would keep doing art all through their lives, even if they don’t think they’re good at it. Art helps you to see things.”

Ta’Kaiya, is 11, from the Coast Salish Nation and lives in Vancouver, BC. A determined environmentalist, Ta’Kaiya was part of the Freedom Train that went across the country to protest the Northern Gateway pipeline. “If we don’t take care of the earth there will be nothing left but mocking silence for what we could have saved,” she says.

Jeffrey, 18 comes from the Waruppa Wampanoag Reservation on Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts and is involved with United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), an organization that brings together native young people and provides leadership training. “Native youth are hungry to be connected to something,” he says. “They can find that connection here and in the traditions of their own communities. Sometimes they have to go looking for it, but as long as they believe it’s out there, they’ll find it.”

This is not the first time Ellis has been inspired to publish oral interviews. She has also talked with Palestinian and Israeli youth, children in North America who have experienced bullying and young people living through violent conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, generously donating portions of her book royalties to organizations helping young people. All proceeds for Looks Like Daylight will go to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Ellis acknowledges there are separate realities among First Nations youth and other North American youth. “Racism is an issue,” she says. “Young people take the lead from the adults around them.”

The author also sees friendships and commonalities among young people, regardless of their background. Ellis says there is a “huge wealth” of knowledge among aboriginal people which all of society can benefit from.

“It’s an exciting time for everyone,” she says. “There are a variety of First Nations media, such as television and newspapers, which we can access to learn more.”

The last words in Looks Like Daylight go to Waasekom, aged 16. He is Ojibwe from the Saugeen First Nation in Ontario. “My spirit name (“Waasekom”) means ‘when it’s night and lightning fills the sky and it suddenly looks like daylight,’” he explains, inspiring the book’s title.

Waasekom says he speaks at rallies, “with authority, yet people can see that I’m a peaceful person. I’ve worked hard to get this way and I still have a long way to go. I’m not like most guys my age who waste their time listening to the sort of music that poisons their mind. I need my mind clear and strong. There’s work to be done.”

For more information – http://www.deborahellis.com and http://www.fncaringsociety.com

Republished from Our Schools, Our Selves, Fall 2013
Also published in BC Teacher newsmagazine, Nov/Dec 2013

Bringing Teaching Ideas to Africa

October 22, 2013

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Photo: Student leadership conference in Arusha, July, 2013

by Janet Nicol

Don’t bring teaching materials to Africa—bring ideas. That’s the motto a team of volunteer Canadian teachers lived by when we signed on to co-lead methodology workshops in east Africa in July. We were part of “Education Beyond Borders,” a non-profit organization endorsed by the BCTF.

EBB is all about sustainability according to its founder, West Vancouver secondary school teacher Noble Kelly. That’s because African teachers continue meeting and supporting each others’ best teaching practices after the Canadians leave. Empowering teachers and supporting quality education has proven more sustainable than building schools or providing teaching supplies, EBB asserts. Since its beginning, the teacher-led organization has volunteered in South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Our team arrived in Arusha, a tourist destination in northern Tanzania, in early July. Among Africa’s most politically stable democracies, this country is also among the world’s poorest. BC educators included this writer as well as Lisa Toffolo, Shannon Howlett, and Carolin Rekar Munro. We were joined by Anita Hayhoe, an Ontario teacher, along with Katharine Kan (BC) and Maureen Hillman (Quebec) who would later travel to Kenya.

After acclimatizing to the cooler high altitude, tropical vegetation, and dusty roads, we met with our Tanzanian co-facilitators, Edward Lolusu, Wilson Mollel, Jesse Laizer, Thobia Gonelimali, Fides Sharima, and Ndensary Massawe. They had taken EBB workshops the previous summer and were eager to pass on new teaching ideas to 200 primary and elementary school teachers.

Our Canada-Tanzania facilitator team met over three days at Arusha Community College to collaborate on how we would “show” not just “tell” teachers about progressive teaching methodologies. The greater goal was to encourage Tanzanians to shift from teacher-centered lecturing to more effective student-centered instruction.

Afterwards we travelled to the village of King’ora, about a two-hour drive from Arusha, staying in a church-run guest house. We walked to classes each day, sharing the dirt road with the occasional stray goat, a snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro always in our sights. Local residents and shopkeepers—from the butcher to the tailor—exchanged friendly greetings in Swahili. We were quick to move aside when a motorcyclist or bus, crowded with working people, sped by. We eventually approached a soccer field and then the Knowledge and Cultural Centre, where we held our sessions.

Our work as facilitators involved teaching collaborative and inquiry-based learning strategies to participants, equally young and old, male and female. These teachers worked in primary and secondary schools in the rural districts of Leguruki and Ngarenanyuki, some enduring more than three-hour bus rides each way to participate. They were given paid release time and EBB covered meals and transportation costs. Assisting admirably with the logistics were Ndekimi Urio, the ward education officer and Kassim Mussa, cluster education officer—as well as our Canadian co-team leaders Shannon and Anita.

Despite membership in a trade union, teachers here are poorly paid. They teach 70 to 100 students in both primary and secondary classrooms with few textbooks. The government assigns work posts, which means new teachers are often in remote areas. Hardship pay is not recognized by the government either. Professional development for teachers is rarely offered.

Most profound is the language issue in Tanzania schools. In these post-colonial decades, Swahili and English are the national languages, although the first language for students is a tribal tongue. Primary schools are taught in Swahili, secondary in English, with Form 7 (equivalent to our Grade 8) the transition year. Not surprisingly, a huge drop-out rate occurs as students struggle to make the language transition. Many of those who stay in secondary school, fail their final exams. Teachers and students are blamed—not the system.

We began each day with icebreakers, after explaining the term to our equator-dwelling colleagues. These ranged from pair and share activities to an EBB chant/game. Fun in the classroom, we demonstrated, is allowed. But we also appreciated the need for classroom management and introduced the liberal notion of a “community agreement,” in a country that still employs corporal punishment.

We proposed that learners and teacher work together to come up with rules in the classroom and post them. In this teacher workshop, turning off cell phones was the number one rule. “No unnecessary movements” appeared to be a top concern teachers told us they raised, when handling students.

As we counted off teachers into groups and gave out tasks using the placemat, jigsaw, and gallery walk methods, (examples to follow) we talked about the benefits of collaborative learning. In small groups our students learn from each other, we proposed, rather than constantly listening to the teacher lecturing whether it’s working on a chapter in a textbook or tackling high-level questions.

This wasn’t disputed by our Tanzanian colleagues (it saves the teachers’ energy, one participant wisely noted) but what was difficult, they told us, was using this method with more than 70 students in a 40-minute lesson.

We also learned a lot about our colleagues’ family and teaching life during chai and lunch breaks. And we learned about their diet as we ate food together, cooked by local women. This included huge potato fries, plantain stew, sweet yams, beans, rice, and small pieces of meat, eaten with a toothpick!

Teachers tried the new methods in their classroom and reported back at a final workshop. Suggestions included: don’t give up—it takes time to try new ideas; select student leaders to circulate to ensure groups are on task; ensure students in groups are assigned roles (recorder, speaker, etc.) and finally, where space is an issue, groups can work outside.
Bloom’s Taxonomy, a “pyramid” concept taught in teacher training (also familiar to Tanzanian teachers) was discussed as we encouraged teachers to engage in inquiry-based learning with their students. We reviewed three levels of questions. At the pyramid base, “low” questions (factual), next medium-level questions, and finally high-level questions that can lead to many answers.

Teachers formed groups and formulated questions on an assigned topic at each level of the pyramid, with an overarching “essential” question at the very peak. In the process we learned a lot about issues affecting Tanzania, from hygiene to family planning (subjects taught in their schools) to police and court abuses and political corruption.

A good classroom lesson is akin to reading a good story. The lesson has a “hook” (such as an essential question), content, and a summing up.

We illustrated a closing activity with the teacher tossing a ball at a student who is required to answer a question such as “What was one thing you learned in this lesson?” On our final day in the village, we had an opportunity to visit primary and secondary schools to see some of these ideas in action.

Thobias was teaching civics using the jigsaw method when we arrived at his school. His class of 70 students was already in groups, each with only three textbooks to share. We circulated and listened to students discuss equality, fairness, and the basic rights of citizens, later reporting out to the class.

In a smaller science class conducted by Fides, groups of students were given a “placemat”—a sheet of paper prepared by the teacher, with a question written in the centre and lines drawn outward into fifths. Each student came up with their own answer, then shared with their group, and then the class.

It was a bumpy ride along unpaved roads back to Arusha for our Canadian team—not unlike the educational path Tanzanian teachers confront. We hope our ideas and moral support go further than material resources ever could. Certainly back in our classrooms in Canada, we will gain a stronger perspective on global education. More heartfelt is our discovery of a small piece of Africa where we made good friends.

Student leaders are the future

On a sunny Saturday, 20 students travelled from rural Tanzania to the city of Arusha for a one-day leadership conference at Arusha Technical College. It was an opportunity to encourage leadership skills and ask young people about their dreams.

If their destinies are anything like their names—these young people are in for a good future. Two female teens are named Happiness, one male is named Fabiola, (close enough to ‘Fabulous’) and two other males go by the common name Baraka. (And yes, Barack Obama is on the list of admired leaders here.) Some names are biblical too like Withness and Godlisten.

Given the hard realities of life, Tanzanian youth already have many responsibilities within their family, at school, and in the community. We received many insightful ideas from participants. In a “gallery walk” activity we asked students to form groups and write down the qualities of a good leader. We then posted the results and groups moved around the room (as in an art gallery walk) and observed the various responses. “No corruption” was top of the list—this from young citizens of a country frequently in the global spotlight on corruption charges.

The Killarney Secondary School Environment Club in Vancouver donated money they fundraised toward hosting this leadership conference. As we mentioned this to participants, we learned many were involved in their school’s environment club too.

Tanzanian students dig up small trees in the forest and replant them in desolate areas, we learned, combating deforestation. They discuss topics within their clubs ranging from global warming to poaching of animals. (There are lots of bumper stickers in Arusha condemning poaching—but also safari companies that still take out foreign hunters.) These students also identified overgrazing, lack of recycling, industrial pollution and loss of biodiversity as some of the key environmental issues they are dealing with.

We encouraged students to dream—for themselves and their community—through journaling activities. The action-packed day also included an inspirational talk by Lazario, the student president of Arusha Technical College, and a tour of the many facets of the campus.

As the students boarded their bus back to their rural homes, we bid them farewell with a great sense of faith in the future of Tanzania.

For more information about Education Beyond Borders, go to http://www.educationbeyondborders.org

Reprinted from BC Teacher newsmagazine, October, 2014.

Watch for an article I have written on the topic of overseas teaching and sustainability in the upcoming issue of Our Schools, Our Selves.

Sipping the Universe – the comfort of tea

October 3, 2013

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The world’s most popular beverage after water, tea is a comfort drink–whether enjoyed in a Vancouver tea house on a rainy winter day or within the cool stone walls of a cafe on a hot afternoon in Zanzibar.

So concludes an article I have written in the Autumn, 2013 issue of Edible Vancouver magazine about camellia sinensis, as the evergreen tea plant is named. Much about tea is described, including the experimental Teafarm on Vancouver Island and tea shops in BC, past and present.

-Janet Nicol

The complete article, with photos, is featured on-line at the “Edible Communities” website.
The link is http://www.ediblecommunities.com/vancouver/

Bricks of Time

September 22, 2013

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Smoke from coal-burning kilns once engulfed the tiny Fraser Valley village of Clayburn as trains shuttled down clay from Sumas Mountain. In 1930, at the dawn of the Great Depression, British Columbia’s first company town and largest producer of bricks all but disappeared. Today, Clayburn, population 150, has re-emerged thanks to the restoration work of locals.

I write a brief history of this village and its attractions for tourists in the Due West section of British Columbia magazine, fall, 2013.

Growing up Union and Feminist – A Profile of Alice West

September 8, 2013

DSC_4776by Janet Nicol

Alice West was 16 when she began working in a plywood plant along the Fraser River in south Vancouver. It was 1942 and jobs had been opening up for women since war broke out and men were leaving to fight overseas. “We weren’t paid much compared to other jobs but we had our own money and freedom,” West remembers. “I wasn’t a schoolgirl anymore.” She and a few of her co-workers got the notion to organize a union at the plant, and they succeeded. West has been fighting for equality and fair treatment ever since.

Still active at age 87, West was given the Rosemary Brown Award for Women on June 7 at a luncheon in Vancouver. The award is given annually in memory of the late BC politician and feminist, Rosemary Brown. Her daughter, Cleta Brown, presented the award to West for her lifetime contributions to women in the labour movement.

I interviewed Alice West at her Burnaby home a few weeks later. West recalled her many history-making union battles–including the fight for equal pay and maternity leave.

Watch for the article in Our Times , on magazine stands this September, 2013.

The Ballad of Jacob Peck – a book review

June 3, 2013

The Ballad of Jacob Peck, by Debra Komar. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane, 2013. 258 pp, $19.95

A true crime set in the Maritimes and passed down through the generations in song, novel and journalism, “The Ballad of Jacob Peck” may have reached its final destination with this definitive re-telling. Debra Komar, a forensic scientist and international human rights investigator, digs deep into archival documents to explore the grisly murder in 1805 of Mercy Hall by her brother Amos Babcock at his home near Shediac, New Brunswick. Babcock was soon arrested, tried in a court of law and given the death penalty. His crime was committed under “God’s instructions” from itinerant preacher Jacob Peck. Yet Peck was not held accountable and the author wants to know why.

The late Canadian musician John Bottomley wrote a haunting 1992 ballad of the same title. His lyrics inspired Komar and prefaces this book. Peck could “whip you into a frenzy at his mad house revival parties,” Bottomley wrote. Mercy Hall was “of melancholy disposition” and Babcock’s wife and nine children watched in horror as “Babcock drew a knife and sharpened it” before committing the heinous deed against her. Kormar’s careful and well-sourced version of these events moves artfully from the present, as the author describes her research hunt, to the past, with its rural landscape of snowbanks on dark winter’s night. Kormar also makes note of a “broken telephone” of errors and misconceptions as the story was re-told down the generations. She is clearly after the truth.

The author’s frustration over gaps in the historical records, such as discarded trial witness statements, is compensated by her ability to nevertheless vividly re-construct the crime and aftermath, in a frontier colonial society populated with interesting and sometimes colorful people. The humble status of the farming people depicts the fragility of their existence. Babcock, poor and illiterate, did not have a defense lawyer for his own trial, for instance and a consequence of his crime included confiscation of property by the government, leaving his wife and children destitute.

More information is available about William Hanington, a prosperous man from whom Babock rented a small house and piece of land. Lawyers and judges involved in Babock’s trial also left a thicker paper trail and are more easily researched. Their education, wealth and family connections gave them considerable influence—and responsibility–over the lives of others, as this story underlines.

No one, rich or poor, escapes the author’s scrutiny. Take for example, Robert Keillor, the town jailor at the Dorchester Courthouse and owner of the tavern situated above the jail. Though he was of good family stock, Keillor was “something of a drinking man.” As Babcock’s keeper, Keillor got to know him well and Keillor’s testimony at the murder trial would prove to be significant. Another person not to be overlooked was Babcock’s cellmate, John Jerome. His destiny became darkly entwined with Babcock’s.

Finally there is the elusive Jacob Peck. His role in the crime based on evidence provided, is left for the reader to determine. At story’s end, however there is much more than Peck’s malignant spirit to ponder in this richly woven tale from Canada’s past.

Reprinted from Maple Tree Literary Supplement, an on-line journal, #15.


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