Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Exiles- Selkirk Settlers 1813

There is a statue at the end of our street at the corner of Bannatyne and Waterfront Drive called Selkirk Settlers 1813.  It was created by Gerald Laing and depicts a family of four departing Scotland for a new home in Canada. 

A sign near the statue explains that in Scotland in the late 1700’s and early 1800s many men, women and children were chased off their land and burned out of their homes. Some were sold into slavery and others were put on ‘coffin ships’ that went to destinations all over the world.  They were called ‘coffin ships’ because the accommodations on board were so horrible—little food, water or living space so as many as 30% of the passengers on board these coffin ships from Scotland died. They said sharks followed the ships waiting for the bodies to be thrown overboard. Rich Scottish landowners wanted to use more of their land for raising sheep so they cleared off all their tenants. This came to be known as The Clearances. 

A humanitarian named Lord Selkirk arranged for some of the people who were victims of The Clearances to come to Canada and establish Scottish colonies here. The statue represents some of those Scots who came to settle here in Manitoba. The Dad has a bare chest and is wearing his kilt. He looks very resolute and hardy. His son is looking up to him. They are facing  forward ready for the dangers and challenges ahead. 

You can see that the Dad has a guiding hand on his son’s back. The mother whose shawl and dress are being blown around by the wind is looking back at her homeland before leaving.  She is probably wondering if she will ever see it again. She appears more apprehensive about embarking on an adventure to an unknown place. Perhaps she is leaving relatives and friends behind. The men’s feet are moving forward. The mother has pivoted on her foot to look behind. 

The mother is holding her baby tight to her chest, no doubt worried about what the future will hold for her small child and  whether the wee thing will survive the long voyage to Canada. 

The first 23 settlers from Scotland brought a bushel and a half of wheat with them which they planted in the agricultural settlement that would eventually become the City of Winnipeg. Some people call this statue The Exiles because the people had been exiled from their homeland. 

I walk by this statue almost every day and it reminds me of my own grandparents who were also exiles—forced to flee Ukraine in the 1920s after all their land had been taken away, their possessions stolen and their lives placed in danger.  Canada is a country filled with people who were exiled and made their way here to start a new life.  This statue was erected in 2008 thanks to generous donations by Dennis MacLeod and John Webster two Winnipeg Scottish businessmen. I’m grateful to them for adding this thought-provoking and beautiful piece of artwork to my neighborhood. 

Categories: Exchange District, Historical Events, Statues | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Who Should I Vote For in Point Douglas?

This man came to my door last night. His name is Kevin Chief and in the Manitoba election on October 4, he will be on the ballot for the New Democratic Party in the riding of Point Douglas where we live. My husband Dave didn’t meet him because he was in the middle of a Scrabble game on the computer during Kevin’s short visit, but when I told Dave who had knocked on our door, he wished he’d had a chance to talk to Kevin Chief too. Kevin was a member of the University of Winnipeg basketball team for five years and Dave watched him play and followed his career.  Dave has been a basketball coach for the last 35 years, and would have enjoyed chatting with Kevin about his university basketball days.  

There are four other candidates in my riding but I haven’t seen or heard from any of the others. Kevin on the other hand has put numerous pamphlets under my door and showed up in person last night. Perhaps the other candidates aren’t bothering to run too aggressive a campaign because this riding has voted NDP in every election since it was created in 1969.


Point Douglas, which has the highest unemployment rate and lowest average family income of any riding in the province, has been represented since 1990 by George Hickes. George has been elected Speaker of the Legislative Assembly after every election since 1999. Even members of the opposition parties praise the fair and even-handed way he has done his job.  Hickes a former Inuit whale hunter and heavy equipment operator is retiring after twenty-two years of public service. 

This will be the first election I will vote in since moving back to Canada after spending six years in Hong Kong. I am also living in a new riding now and so it will be my first time voting in Point Douglas. I thought I should find out a bit more about the candidates running in my riding as well as the platforms of the parties they represent so I can make an informed decision on October 4th. 

Perhaps I should vote for the Liberal candidate just because we share a name. Mary-Lou Bourgeois works in social services as an advocate for seniors with intellectual disabilities. She is on the Board of Directors for Our Children Are Not Safe an organization dedicated to eliminating child sexual abuse and also volunteers with an anti-graffiti program. Mary-Lou was a candidate in the last election for the Liberals who are running on a platform of Strong Families-Strong Communities.  If elected they promise to improve the highschool graduation rate, fight Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, provide more day care spaces and recreation centre programs, improve emergency room care and support aboriginal youth. 

John Vernaus, the Conservative Party candidate owns an auto body shop and is a boxing promoter who has coached several world champion boxers. He mentors youth through the Teen Challenge program, has been the president of the Automobile Trades Association and is a member of the Manitoba Boxing Commission. The Conservatives are running on a platform of Growing Communities, Safer Communities, Healthier Communities. They promise to cut red tape so it will be easier for new businesses to move to Manitoba, enter into more trade agreements, provide the police with cutting edge technology to help rein in gangs, create a Weapons Enforcement Unit to track down illegal weapons, provide better care for Alzheimer patients and target resources for the fight against diabetes. 

Kevin Chief, the NDP candidate, is working on a Master’s Degree in Education after serving as the coordinator of the Innovative Learning Centre at the University of Winnipeg. He ran federally in the riding of Winnipeg North in a by-election last fall and lost to Liberal Kevin Lamoureux. A former all-star basketball player, he is also a member of a square dance troupe. The NDP who are currently the party in power in our province, are running on a platform of Let’s Keep Building—Don’t Turn Back. They are promising to hire more police officers, prosecutors, doctors and nurses, create a Lighthouse program to get kids off the streets, build more personal care homes, stimulate economic growth by eliminating the small business tax and increase skills and apprenticeship programs.

Teresa Pun, a physician, is running for the Green Party. She and her husband have a pet rabbit they got from the Humane Society. She likes biking and thinks Point Douglas should have an urban provincial park with a community garden, artist studios and yoga classes. Teresa wants to open a vaccination clinic to increase the rate of child vaccinations in our province. The Green Party platform called Towards A Bright Future advocates more sensible liquor laws for Manitoba and free public transportation service. 

Darrell Rankin is running for the Communist Party in Point Douglas.  He is the former chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance, and ran unsuccessfully for the Communist Party in the recent federal election for Winnipeg Centre. He joined the Communist Party of Canada in 1978 and was its leader in 1995.  The Communist Party of Manitoba doesn’t have a website so  I’m not sure what their platform is or what kind of issues and programs they are promoting, but Darrell said in his federal election campaign that he would advocate for aboriginal rights and fight against free trade, wage freezes, tuition hikes, poverty and racism. 

After living in Hong Kong which still does not have universal suffrage even though the Chinese government promised it would by 2007, I can appreciate even more keenly the privilege we have in Canada to elect those who represent us. I’ve traveled to many countries in the last six years where people do not have the right to vote, or where the election process is so corrupt it is almost meaningless. It has made me realize that being informed about who I vote for is a responsibility I need to take seriously. 


Categories: Historical Events, Point Douglas, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Poetry of Boxing

Dave and I have gone by the Pan Am Boxing Club several times on our walks in our neighborhood.  The club which was founded just after Manitoba hosted the Pan Am Games in 1967 is a real community player. They are in the process of developing the building next door as living quarters for at risk youth in downtown Winnipeg who want to make a change in their lives. The young people who participate will be involved in a program that includes fitness, education and volunteerism.

The Pan Am Boxing Club is located in this beautiful old building on McDermot Avenue. I did a little research and found out it was built in 1893 and the top two floors were added a few years later. It was designed by Hugh McCowan and was home to the Stovel Printing and Publishing Company.  A German newspaper called Der Nordwestern also had its editorial offices in the building. It is an official historic site of Manitoba. In the 1940’s a dry goods firm bought the building. 

What I hadn’t noticed till I walked by the building on Saturday night was that the one side of it features the verses of a poem, a poem about boxing. The verses of the poem are tucked into window frames on the first two stories. 

The poem comes from a book called VS.  Kerry Ryan the poet  is described as a shy, bookish woman who decided to take up boxing for the physical and mental challenge and became enamored with the sport as well as with the people at the PanAm Boxing Club.  She wrote a book of poems about her boxing experiences which is available at McNally Robinson here in Winnipeg. 

END NOTE :  Kerry Ryan the poet saw this blog post and sent me a free copy of her poetry book. 

Categories: Exchange District, Literature, Sports | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s Gandhi Doing in Winnipeg?

I was surprised on a walk in my new Winnipeg neighborhood to bump into Gandhi, the political leader famous for his acts of civil disobedience against British colonial power in India’s fight for independence. There is a statue of Gandhi right in the center of the laneway just south of where the new Human Rights Museum is being built. Gandhi looks like he’s out for a brisk stroll with his signature cane and fits right in with the other Winnipeggers walking down the street.  I wondered what a statue of Gandhi was doing in Winnipeg. 

I discovered the art work was a gift from the Indian government to the Friends of the Canadian Human Rights Museum in 2004, but it was only unveiled in its permanent spot in June of 2010.  The statue has caused some controversy because there is talk of renaming the portion of the street on which it stands after Gandhi as well.  Some people are upset by this because Gandhi is known to have made statements affirming Arab rights to Palestine in the late 1930’s. A Winnipeg Sun columnist says renaming a street near the Human Rights Museum after Gandhi would be the height of hypocrisy. 

On a recent trip to Saskatoon I spotted another statue of Gandhi in the down town area. This statue was also a gift from the Indian government to the city of Saskatoon and was created by Ram Vanji Sutar, the same artist who made the Gandhi sculpture in Winnipeg. 

 I think I’d like to dig up a paper I wrote in university for my Religious Studies degree comparing Gandhi’s ideas with those of John Howard Yoder, a Mennonite theologian.  It would be interesting to see what kind of writer I was almost forty years ago and how the ideas I had then about Gandhi would compare with those I hold now after visiting India.  

Categories: Statues, The Forks | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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