Famous Citizens

A Mural For Bill Norrie

bill norrie mural langside and ell iceI was walking to the West End Cultural Centre on Sunday night and went past this mural.  Unveiled in September of 2013 it pays tribute to Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie who died in July of 2012.  Bill Norrie grew up not too far from its location at the corner of Ellice and Langside. 

bill norrie mural

Tom Lamb – A Sculpture by Leo Mol on the Bill Norrie mural

Bill’s wife Helen Norrie, whose photo is displayed prominently in the mural, said at the mural’s unveiling that she appreciated the way it pictured so many of the things her husband was passionate about and interested in. For example, the mural includes a sculpture of Tom Lamb by Winnipeg artist Leo Mol. Norrie officially opened Mol’s sculpture garden in Assiniboine Park during his last year in office. There is also a panda since Bill Norrie helped to bring the pandas to Winnipeg. 

bill norrie at his desk muralThe mural was painted by local artists Michel Saint Hilaire and Mandy van Leeuwen and shows the former mayor sitting at his desk surrounded by items that were meaningful to him. bill norrie's family home on banningThe artists have even included a likeness of Bill Norrie’s childhood home on Banning Street.

norrie cottage and panda

The Norrie cottage and a panda

Bill Norrie was the mayor of Winnipeg from 1979-1992 and at the mural’s unveiling current mayor Sam Katz characterized him as a kind and gentle man who loved his community. University of Winnipeg President Dr Lloyd Axworthy also paid tribute to Norrie saying, “he never forgot his roots.” 

Helen Norrie on Bill Norrie mural

Helen Norrie photo on Bill Norrie mural

Helen Norrie observed, “Bill loved Winnipeg and this mural shows that.”

Other posts about Bill Norrie…….

Words of Wisdom from Winnipeg Mayor  Bill Norrie

Other posts about murals……..

Gunn’s Bakery

The Winnipeg Strike

Other posts about Leo Mol…..

Visiting the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

Tom Lamb Mr. North

Tree Children

 

Categories: Famous Citizens, Murals, Politics, West End | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nathan Rogers at The West End Cultural Centre

nathan-rogersThis month I went to hear Winnipeg musician Nathan Rogers give a concert featuring the songs of his famous father Stan Rogers at the West End Culutral Centre. It was a great show!  I did a post on my blog What Next about it called Nathan Rogers: A Family Story That Tugs at Your Heart Strings.  Why not check it out? 

Categories: Culture, Famous Citizens, West End | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations People Have More in Common Than You Think

IMG_5751Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people have many things in common. I was surprised to hear that statement from Ovide Mercredi last Friday night at Thunder Bird House on Winnipeg’s Main Street.  Mr. Mercredi, a lawyer, and former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, was speaking at a dinner and program organized by Mennonite Church Manitoba and Mennonite Church Canada, as part of their mission to build mutually beneficial relationships with our country’s indigenous people. 

13011_ovide_mercrediMr. Mercredi said both Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people know what it means to be oppressed. Mennonites left Ukraine and fled to Canada to be free from oppression. Mr. Mercredi noted that unlike Mennonites, Canada’s indigenous people have had no other countries to which they have been able to flee, in order to escape the oppression they have experienced in their native land.

 Upon their arrival in Manitoba in the 1870s the Mennonites were given two large reserves of land both east and west of the Red River. Canada’s First Nations people were also given reserves of land by the government. The Mennonites received 6% of Manitoba’s land at the time of their settlement. The First Nations received a much smaller percentage of the province’s land for their reserves. Mennonites were given good agricultural land, while Canada’s indigenous people were given mostly muskeg.

 Mr. Mercredi explained that another thing his people and Mennonites have in common is strong religious beliefs and an abiding faith in the Creator. The Canadian government allowed Mennonites to practice their faith freely, and even granted them special dispensation to remain true to their religious belief in pacifism, exempting them from military service.  First Nations people on the other hand had their spiritual practices outlawed by the Indian Act and the government tried to convert their children to Christianity by forcing them to attend residential schools.

Finally, like Mennonites, Mr. Mecredi said his people belong to a collective entity, a community with which they can identify. Mr. Mecredi fears the Harper government’s plan to introduce legislation that would allow First Nations members living on reserves to own their own property will irrevocably damage that collective identity. 

Although Ovide Mecredi said he was going to talk about how Mennonites and Canada’s First Nations people were the same, he essentially talked about how we are different, how much more privileged Mennonites have been.

Mr. Mecredi is a knowledgeable and articulate spokesperson for Canada’s First Nations and he used his platform on Friday night to educate us about the challenges facing his people and to explain a concept he called a double understanding. It describes a relationship where both parties not only listen, but they also genuinely hear one another, and try to understand one other’s point of view.

Cartoon by Terry Mosher- Aislin- 1991- from the collection of the McCord Museum- Montreal

Cartoon by Terry Mosher- Aislin- 1991- from the collection of the McCord Museum- Montreal

 He emphasized the need for a double understanding between Canada’s First Nations people and the current government, warning the country is headed for real conflict if that kind of working relationship cannot be established. He said there are now thousands of university educated aboriginal leaders who will rise up across the country to bring about necessary change in a peaceful way. The Idle No More movement protesting the government’s Bill C-45 is an example of the kind of political action we can expect to see.

I left Thunderbird House on Friday night keenly aware that everyone has a role to play in helping reach a double understanding with Canada’s First Nations people, not just Mennonites, but all religious groups and all Canadians.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……….

Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations

 There Must Be 50 Ways to Use a Bison

Words of Wisdom From Winnipeg Mayor Bill Norrie

Categories: Churches, Downtown, Famous Citizens, Historical Events, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

When our friend Rebekah was here spending a few days with us we took her to the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. The garden is filled with beautiful flowers.  It was awash with bright pinks, purples, reds and yellows on our visit. Can you see Dave and Rebekah hiding in the flowers in the picture below?I’m sure in fall and spring the garden will feature a different but equally stunning color scheme with the flowers that are in bloom at that time. Here Dave is showing Rebekah had to snap open the mouth of a snapdragon. 

The name snapdragon comes from the flowers’ response to having their “throats” squeezed, which makes the “mouth” of the blossom snap open like a dragon’s mouth.

Leo Mol who died in 2009 is probably Winnipeg’s most famous and prolific artist. You can find his sculptures all over the world. His likenesses of three different popes are in the Vatican and he sculpted American presidents Dwight Eishenhower and John F. Kennedy as well as British prime minister Winston Churchill. Despite his international fame, Leo Mol remained determinedly loyal to his adopted home in Winnipeg where he found a safe haven after leaving Ukraine in the 1940’s. 

The Leo Mol sculpture garden has more than 300 of Leo Mol’s works many of them donated by the artist.  There are two buildings on site– one a gallery featuring some of his smaller art pieces and the other the old school-house which once served as Mol’s workshop. Leo Mol sculpted such a variety of subjects. 

Biblical figures like MosesMythical figures like Europa and the bull

Fellow Canadian artists like A.Y. Jackson, member of the famous Group of Seven

Sculptures influenced by his Ukrainian heritage like The Blind Bandurist

Likenesses of famous Canadians like William Stephenson–the spy called IntrepidSculptures of ordinary Canadians like this Family GroupWorld famous figures like Queen Elizabeth

I especially enjoyed watching the National Film Board movie Leo Mol In Light and Shadow being shown in his school-house studio. It tells the story of how Leo was reunited with his sister after not being able to communicate with his family back in Ukraine for over fifty years. I learned that besides creating sculptures Leo also designed and made stained glass windows. 

The Leo Mol Sculpture garden is a serene and rejuvenating kind of place. There are huge shady trees to cool you, the scent of thousands of flowers, the sound of water running into the lily pond and plenty of excellent art to look at and think about. 

Rebekah took this picture of Dave and me enjoying the day in the Leo Mol Garden. 

You might want to check out these other posts I have done about Leo Mol sculptures in Winnipeg

Tom Lamb- Mr. North

James Bond is  From Winnipeg

Tree Children

Categories: Famous Citizens, Parks, Sculptures | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Words of Wisdom from Winnipeg Mayor Bill Norrie

“An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.”

Last month former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie passed away at age 83.  In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press the city’s present mayor Sam Katz praised Norrie for his phenomenal dedication to the city. Norrie served as the mayor for thirteen years. Although I didn’t know Bill Norrie personally I have never forgotten his commencement address in 2003 at the University of Manitoba. Our son was graduating and  I made notes during Mr. Norrie’s speech because I wanted to remember his inspiring words. Bill Norrie was an honorary chancellor of the university.

  “An eye for eye makes everyone blind”.  Chancellor Bill Norrie used that bit of wisdom from the great Hindu spiritual teacher Mahatma Ghandi during his address to the University of Manitoba graduates just before he presented their degrees.  Mr. Norrie encouraged them to join the quest for justice and peace in our world. He noted with regret the many armed conflicts around the globe. The chancellor challenged the graduates to better the world by becoming active volunteers with cutting edge views. He encouraged them to take the kind of bold actions that bring about positive change. Norrie expressed his hope that the students would work to make Winnipeg and Manitoba welcoming places. He reminded them that at the university they had enjoyed friendships and mutually beneficial learning experiences with people of many different nationalities, cultures,  life styles and religions. “The University of Manitoba student body is a snapshot of the world”, he said. “I think all here should be proud to know that this university had taken the lead in building bridges between diverse communities.” Mr. Norrie’s words were a call to the graduates to make the Manitoba communities in which they would live and work places where people of varied races, ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths respected one another’s differences and were enriched by them.            

Chancellor Norrie ended his remarks with a prayer written by Sir Francis Drake in 1577.

Disturb us Lord,

When we are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us Lord, to dare more boldly.

Venturing on winter seas

Where storms will show your mastery.

Where losing sight of land

We shall find the stars.

                  What an exciting challenge to live a life where we risk much, to accomplish much, all the while trusting God to steer us towards the stars. 

You might also want to read…..

What’s Ghandi Doing In Winnipeg

               

Categories: Famous Citizens, Politics | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Famous Five

You are not persons” the Supreme Court of Canada told these five women in 1927 when they petitioned the court to determine whether as ‘persons’ they were eligible for appointment to Canada’s Senate. The court said they weren’t really people and therefore ineligible for Senate appointment. The  five women didn’t give up their fight and appealed to the British Privy Judicial Council who ruled they were indeed people. They are known as Canada’s Famous Five for their important contribution to women’s rights in Canada. 

Walking across the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature this summer I stopped to photograph this statue of the Famous Five created by Helen Granger Young and unveiled in June of 2010.  The five women are……….

Henrietta Muir Edwards who founded the Victorian Order of Nurses and set up a house in Montreal for single working women, a forerunner of the YWCA.  She was married to a doctor and had three children.

Emily Murphy was a bestselling author married to an Anglican minister and the mother of four daughters. She was the first female appointed as a magistrate in the British Empire. She was instrumental in having the Dower Act passed which ensured that upon the death of a man his widow was entitled to at least a third of his estate.

Irene Parlby sponsored the Minimum Wage Act for Women in 1925 and as the President of the United Farm Women of Alberta did much to improve health care for rural women and children. She was the second female cabinet minister in Canada. Married to a farmer and the mother of one son, Irene was the first woman given an honorary degree by the University of Alberta. 

Louise McKinney was an excellent debater and a member of the Alberta Legislature where she was instrumental in passing legislation to support people with disabilities, immigrants, widowed and single women. A teacher, she and her husband traveled together.

Nellie McClung is perhaps the most famous of the Famous Five because she played a key role in women getting the right to vote and run for public office in Manitoba in 1916. Manitoba was the first province to give women the vote in Canada. She was married to a pharmacist,had five children and was a best-selling novelist.

There are also statues of the Famous Five in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and when I visited there several years ago I posed with Emily Murphy. 

Here my daughter-in-law and her sister and I are between Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung who is holding up the newspaper with the headline Women are Persons. 

My husband and daughter-in-law sip tea with Henrietta Muir and Louise McKinney.

I’m glad to know there are statues of the Famous Five in Winnipeg and I don’t have to go all the way to Ottawa to see them.  Around the sculptures in Winnipeg is an enclosing circle of brick engraved with a quote from Nellie McClung. 

I want to leave something behind when I go; some small legacy of truth, some word that will shine in a dark place.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like these posts about other statues of famous people in Winnipeg…………..

What’s Ghandi Doing In Winnipeg

James Bond is From Winnipeg

John Hirsch Place

 

Categories: Downtown, Famous Citizens, Historical Events, Politics, Statues | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Controversial Statue

On Sunday afternoon Dave and I went for a walk in St. Boniface and saw this statue on the St. Boniface College campus. I recognized the statue right away since it had stood on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature for many years. I knew it had caused quite a stir when it was unveiled and that it had been removed from the legislature. I didn’t realize it had been relocated to St. Boniface College where Louis Riel was once a student. 

The statue really has two parts. The first part is the 12 foot high cement sculpture of Louis Riel, the Metis founder of Manitoba. It was created by retired firefighter and artist Marcien Lemay.The second part of the art piece are two 30 foot high half cylinder shells that bracket the sculpture and have Riel’s name and a quote from him etched into them. The shells were made by architect Etienne Gaboury a distant relative of Louis Riel’s. 

 Artist Lemay said Louis Riel was a controversial historical figure so he wanted to create a controversial statue. He made Louis Riel’s face contorted in anguish. His body is naked and twisted. He wanted to show Riel as a martyr who suffered for his people. It is true that Louis Riel was controverisal.He spent time in a mental institution. He had some very strange fanatical religious prophesies. The Canadian government labeled him a rebel and a murderer, sent him into exile and eventually hung him.

On the other hand he is officially recognized as the founder of Manitoba. He was an educated spokesperson for the Metis people and fought valiantly and eloquently for their property rights. He was elected to the Canadian Parliament three times and Manitoba has an annual public holiday in his honor.

 Louis Riel’s name is in big letters on the bracketing walls of the artwork and near their bottom is this quote……..”Yes I have done my duty. During my life I have aimed at practical results. I hope that after I die my spirit will bring practical results. I know that through the grace of God I am the founder of Manitoba.”

 The statue caused a great deal of controversy when it was unveiled in 1970. Some people thought it was ridiculous to spend $35,000 on a statue of someone who “was unbalanced mentally and who influenced and inflamed the Metis to go on the war path.” The Metis community said, “The statue is an insult to Louis Riel and the Metis people. It is horrible- him standing there stark naked looking leery, when throughout his life and even at his execution he carried himself like a statesman.”

The statue stood at the legislature for 24 years and was attacked by vandals on many occasions. They spray painted and defaced the statue and at one point even cut off Riel’s penis.

 Finally in 1994 the statue was taken down at the Legislative grounds and a new one was put up in its place. Lemay and Gaboury’s statue was moved to St. Boniface College where it was unveiled in 1996.


If you enjoyed this blog post you might also like…………

A Graphic Louis Riel

Categories: Famous Citizens, St. Boniface, Statues | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

A Graphic Louis Riel

On February 24th when we celebrated Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, I realized I had done any number of blog posts that involved Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba.  When I visited the Grey Nuns’ Convent I found out Louis Riel was a student at a school run by the nuns and one of the sisters traveled to Montreal with him so he could attend college there. I have since learned as well that Louis Riel’s sister Sara joined the order of Grey Nuns in the 1860’s and remained a serving sister till her death of tuberculosis in 1883.

When I wrote a post about James Ashdown who built the warehouse which houses my condo in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, I noted that Louis Riel had imprisoned Mr. Ashdown for 59 days because he voiced resistance to Louis’ take over of the Red River Settlement. 

I did a post about Joseph Royal and the park named after him at the foot of the Provencher Bridge.  I wrote about how Joseph had argued for Louis Riel’s amnesty and had defended two of Louis’ compatriots who were accused of the murder of Thomas Scott. 

I explored the life of A. G. Bannatyne in  a post since I live on Bannatyne Avenue. Mr. Bannatyne acted as a mediator between Louis Riel’s provisional government and the Canadian government. I noted that Louis Riel even wrote a poem about Annie Bannatyne, A.G’s wife. 

In my post about the Provencher Bridge I said that the pedestrian walkway on the structure was called Esplanade Riel in honor of Louis Riel. 

I realized I had written quite a bit about Louis Riel, but how much did I actually know about him? My last Canadian history course was in high school and I had never read a book about Louis Riel. I decided it was time to remedy that. I didn’t have time however to read some thick tome about the founder of my province so I decided to get Chester Brown’s Louis Riel- A Comic Strip Biography from the library. I had introduced my high school students to a couple graphic novels and I knew they were a good way to tell a story. 

Although I was a little disappointed that the book didn’t deal with Louis’ childhood it did provide a good overview of his life from the time just before the Riel Rebellion/ Resistance till Louis’ execution. The book was easy to read and I finished it in a day. I learned that Louis Riel was  elected to Canada’s Parliament three times while he was a wanted criminal and in exile in the United States. 

I learned quite a bit more about the role Canadian prime minister Sir John A McDonald had in the resistance movements in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan that Louis was involved in.  Brown depicts Sir John A as mean-spirited, self -serving and willing to sacrifice anything to get his railway built across Canada. 

I learned quite a bit more about the relationship between Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was more of a pragmatist than Riel and more interested in violent resistance. If you want to know more about Riel and Dumont listen to this excellent interview with Joseph Boyden who has written a book about the two men. 

I also learned what a deeply religious person Louis was and how that influenced his decisions. 

Chester Brown’s graphic comic gave a good overview of Louis’ life. Since Riel plays such a prominent role in the history of the province of Manitoba and in the history of Winnipeg it is good for me to know more about him.

I am currently reading Louis Riel-Firebrand by Sharon Stewart to learn more about Riel’s childhood and personality. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…………..

A Controversial Statue

Categories: Famous Citizens, Literature | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Carol Shields

Today is International Women’s Day so I thought today I should do a post about a Winnipeg woman who really put our city on the map. I don’t think I realized the scope of Carol Shields reputation till I moved to Hong Kong in the fall of 2003 just after the Pulitzer Prize winning author had died of cancer. 

“Did you know Carol Shields?” I was asked that question in an almost reverential whisper in a Hong Kong bookstore. A few weeks after I’d moved to Hong Kong nearly ten years ago I used my Canadian credit card to pay for some novels at Page One, a well-known chain of Asian book stores. The clerk who handled the transaction wondered where I came from in Canada. “I live in Manitoba, close to the city of Winnipeg”, I told him. The clerk immediately asked if I knew Carol Shields.  I said I’d never spoken to Ms. Shields, but I had seen her in person at a book reading, attended a performance of a play she’d written, and I had read almost all of her work. The Hong Kong clerk led me to a table covered with black velvet near the front of the store. It featured a display of Shield’s books arranged around her photograph. “She was a fine author”. His voice resonated with genuine regret as he continued,” I was so sad when I heard she had died”.
Carol Shields the author of novels, non-fiction, plays and poetry wasn’t born in Winnipeg or even Canada, but in Oak Park Illinois. I visited Oak Park in November which was, by the way, also the home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Carol may not have been born in Winnipeg but she lived here from 1980-2000, was a professor at the University of Winnipeg and the chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. Winnipeg serves as a setting in some of her novels. 
The first book of Carol’s I read was Swann. I was fascinated by the way a person’s reputation and life story can be shaped, distorted and embellished posthumously by people who have never even met them. (This same theme is elegantly explored in a novel I just finished The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst). However Swann opened my mind to the idea for the first time and it had me rethinking my blithe assumptions about all kinds of historical figures. 

I read almost all of Carol’s books after that, but admit I kept a soft spot for Swann, even though it isn’t one of her more well-known works. Stone Diaries her Pulitzer Prize winner tells the story of Daisy Flett, a very ordinary woman, whose life was really anything but ordinary. I remember the first time I read it, my favorite thing about the book were the photographs Carol included. I was so curious about her choice of photos and examined them for a long time. But because the book was fictional the photos were too, and so somehow they didn’t prevent me from imagining the characters looking exactly the way I wanted them to. 

 

I think Carol Shields is a good Winnipeg citizen to feature on International Woman’s Day because in interviews she often talked about how important her role as a mother of five children was in her life. She says she could never have written a novel if she hadn’t been a mother first. Near the end of her life when she was asked about her legacy she said her writing wasn’t her legacy, her children were. 

I took a photo of this bronze statue of Carol for my post about the Millennium Library. The library has an auditorium named after Carol. A replica of this statue can also be seen on the Winnipeg Citizen Walk of Fame in Assiniboine Park. 

Categories: Famous Citizens, Literature | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Mr. Eaton

This statue of Timothy Eaton is in the concourse of the MTS Centre where the Winnipeg Jets play hockey. I remember this statue well. Years ago it was located on the main floor in the old Eaton’s Store which stood on the very same spot where the MTS Centre is now. When my family came into Winnipeg from Steinbach to shop, we would often argree to rendezvous at a certain time at Mr. Eaton’s statue. The Eaton’s store went bankrupt in 1999 and eventually arrangements were made to declare the statue a part of Manitoba’s provincial history and preserve it in the MTS Centre.
Timothy Eaton came to Canada from Ireland and built a retail empire with large department stores both in Toronto and Winnipeg. Mr. Eaton also had a nation wide mail order business. I remember how excited I was as a little girl when the Eatons’ catalogue came out, especially the Christmas edition. We looked through it so many times picking out the things we dreamed about getting for Christmas. My mother remembers longing for an Eaton’s Beauty Doll for Christmas, a special line of dolls produced each year by Eatons. 

This statue was a gift to the Eaton family from the Eatons’ employees. It was presented to Timothy Eaton’s widow Margaret and his son John in 1919 on the occasion of the store’s 50th anniversary. The employees wanted to show their gratitude for the company’s generosity during World War I. All Eatons’ employees who enlisted in the army were promised their jobs back after the war. Married employees received their full Eaton’s salary during the war, and single men half their salary. Eaton’s sent their military employees care packages of chocolate, coffee, socks and other store products during the war. The company had many lucrative government contracts because of the war but donated all their profits from these contracts to the war effort. Apparently Mr. Eaton was also one of the first to close his business at 1 pm. on Saturday, instead of 6 pm. to give workers more time off. 

The 3,500 pound statue was made by Ivor Lewis, a Welshman who worked in the Eaton’s advertising department. It was officially unveiled on December 8,1919. The Eaton’s Choral Society sang O Canada.  John Eaton, Timothy’s son,  had a cold so his wife Flora read his speech in which he thanked the employees for their kind gift. A replica was placed in the Eaton’s Store in Toronto. It is now in the Royal Ontario Museum. 

 

This photo shows John and Margaret Eaton arriving at the store for the anniversary celebrationsAlthough I am sure many Eaton’s workers did appreciate their employer enough to donate money for a massive statue, I am also a little skeptical about the whole thing, because I know that during the Winnipeg Labor Strike in June of 1919, just six months before the presentation of the statue, Eatons tried to bribe their workers with a $4.00 a week raise so they wouldn’t go on strike. Despite this 500 of them walked off the job. Eatons also supplied the horses and baseball bats for the special police forces established to deal with the strikers. 

I need to go back and visit the statue again. I’ve learned it is good luck to rub the left foot of the Timothy Eaton statue. I’m going to do that the very next time I walk by. 

Categories: Downtown, Famous Citizens, Statues | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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