Daily Archives: March 21, 2010

Politics & the Pen, 03/10. Canadian War Museum, 03/11

The Pictures. I wasn’t very good at these – too crowded — and ended up taking pictures of the chandelier in the Chateau Laurier, and also the dessert. The three hairy guys are Andrew “The Tar Sands” Nikiforuk, ferocious environmental writer; Saint Wayne Grady (The Great Lakes, among others); and Graeme “Bedside Book of Beasts” Gibson. The two tablemates with me are Clare Carey, wife of the British High Commissioner, Margaret Atwood, and Jacqueline LaRocque, manager of public policy at GlaxoSmithKline.

Trying to catch up on this blog…

Politics and the Pen

On March 10, Graeme Gibson and I put on our fancy outfit and went to the Writers’ Trust “Politics and the Pen” annual dinner in Ottawa. (www.writerstrust.com)

The Writers’ Trust:  “The Writers’ Trust of Canada was founded by five notable Canadian authors — Margaret Atwood, the late Pierre Berton, Graeme Gibson, the late Margaret Laurence, and David Young — to encourage a flourishing writing community in this country.

Since 1976, the Writers’ Trust of Canada, led by volunteers from the arts and business communities, has directed support from the private sector to Canadian writers and writing.

This country’s writers receive more financial support from the Writers’ Trust of Canada than any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country. In the 2008-2009 the organization gave $449,304 directly to 99 writers.” (From the website.) Some of the early days of the Trust were quite hair-raising, but it is now doing very well.

The Politics and the Pen dinner in Ottawa – which gathers writers, sponsors, politicians, and – shhh – lobbyists — is now THE Ottawa social event, I’m told – partly because people who wouldn’t ordinarily be in the same room together can mingle and plot while talking about literature.  Think of those “Court of Henry VIII” scenes in The Tudors. “Like my villanelle? And – a word in your ear – His Majesty wants you to chop off some heads.” “What, again?”

His Majesty was actually not there that night, but lots of other folks were. I met Jim Prentice’s bow tie, which was an unusual striped pattern. (Didn’t meet the rest of him, being too short.) The highlight was the Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing.

(http://www.writerstrust.com/Awards/Shaughnessy-Cohen-Prize-for-Political-Writing.aspx) Shaughn was an old pal of many years who collapsed from a burst aneurism in the House of Commons and died way too young. She would have loved this award, and the whole event – she loved politics, and gossip, and head-chopping (figurative): the whole nine yards.  Well done, Ottawa!

The Canadian War Museum

The next morning we visited the new, expanded Canadian War Museum, which is truly spectacular. There has been some grumbling about it – does it glorify war? Does it not glorify war enough?

Saying that this museum glorifies war is kind of like saying that a TV series on hospitals glorifies disease. You can praise bravery without extolling the conditions in which the bravery occurred, and I think this is what the Museum does. It also makes it very clear how various wars have shaped our country – from the earliest wars we know about, 5,000 years ago, through the early wars in New France and between France and England, then the War of 1812 and the Rebellion of 1839 and the Riel Rebellion (if you lose it’s a rebellion, if you win it’s a revolution). Then came the big wars of the twentieth century. I didn’t get past World War One, myself – too riveting, and having seen the real Vimy site I was interested in the recreation – but I plan to go back.


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