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.


Filed under 1, YOTF Tour Blog

6 responses to “Politics & the Pen, 03/10. Canadian War Museum, 03/11

  1. I must say I found this to be most interesting as I too have been to the Canadian War Museum. I was particularily paying attention to the review of what you believe the Museum represents. Your analogy in using a television series in comparison to real live hospital events is a an excellent way of explaining to the general public the difference between “glorifying war” as compared to keeping our Canadian war history alive.

    We need places such as the Canadian War Museum as it helps future generations to learn of their ancestors in war times. It also gives great dignity to the fine men and women who served on Canada’s behalf past and present.

    Thank you for a great write up.

    Author – The Many Faces of War -2009

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  3. Rewand Nakad

    Another perspective on the idea of Politics and the Pen

    Dear Margaret
    Are you really going to go and receive that award from tel aviv university? How could you do that?

    I will not write you a long correspondence because you will receive others. I hope you read them. If you don’t want to, all the information you need to educate yourself about zionist violations of human rights is available on the internet and in many books.

    On the other hand they are giving you a nice sum of money? I guess you can do a lot with that. Makes it easier to push away the fact that you become part of the propaganda campaign – “Brand Israel” – to normalize and whitewash the crimes of the biggest violator of international law in the world.

    Rewand Nakad
    Doctoral Student

  4. Natalie Polonsky laRoche

    Dear Margaret,
    I am writing to you because, being of a similar age, I have read, respected, identified with, and felt a lot of sisterhood for and with you over these many years!
    I am a member of International Jewish Voices(IJV), a group of progressive Jews, of many different political persuations and ages, who are opposed to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the Occupied Territories! As you might imagine, this is a huge and principled step for many Jewish people to take, as many of us, like you, were raised to be Zionists! ( I was born in 1942!) We felt it was urgent to have, finally, a Jewish Voice speaking out against the crimes of the Israeli State, as opposed to supporting it!
    I have been searching for the appropriate place to contact you, and decided the Canadian War Museum would be a fine start. I visited recently, and enjoyed my trip. All those artifacts and all that history..well displayed! Quite emotional!
    After I left, I thought about it a bit and I realized that there was no mention of the Dunkirk in the exhibit, where thousands of innocent civilians were slaughtered by Canadians!
    I also thought that the wars against our Native peoples has been given very short shrift! Our role as conquerers, colonizer sand oppressors has certainly not been explored.
    Our wars against the French, which continued in many forms, even up to this day were not dealt with expansively as well!
    So, this is a letter about war, or more accurately, it is an Anti-War letter!
    In particular, it is an Anti-War letter opposed to the Israeli War against the Palestinian People!
    I am writing you because of your lack of support for the Palestinian people in the face of vicious attacks and occupation of Gaza,the Occupied Territories, and now…East Jerusalem, by the Israeli State! I know you have a strong sense of justice and I ask you to reevaluate your position, as many of us in IJV, here and in the USA and Europe, have had to do! You have said that you would go to Gaza and write about it. I would urge you to take a tour of the Territory with the IJV Group this June. You have a strong sense of justice, I believe, and I trust in the power of your words and your mind, to write about the tragedy of Gaza and the Occupied Territories in an accurate and fair manner, once you see the horror and the truth of the occupation. Please GO TO GAZA with the IJV, see , with your own eyes, and bring back the truth for the Canadian people. Canadian people have trusted and believed your words for many years!!

    In Sisterhood and Justice

    Natalie Polonsky LaRoche

  5. Natalie Polonsky laRoche

    Sorry, folks, I need to correct myself. I meant the Canadian attack on
    Dresden …NOT Dunkirk!
    Have a beautiful day!


  6. I note with interest that your Museum hosted the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s exhibit, Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.

    As author of the new historical fiction, Lebensborn, a story of a French girl caught in the web of the SS to create this Master, Race, I write to see if you would have any interest in reviewing this book.

    Jo Ann Bender

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