Unapologetically Canadian Episode 3: Brian Perron’s Vision for a Mission in the City

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This conversation with Brian Perron, the leader behind Verdun’s Church of the Epiphany comes from my archives.  We discussed peace, acceptance and being open to connecting with anyone. 

This episode is brought to you by  Lufa Rooftop Gardens. If you decide to order a basket and use my code, TA50107, we both get $10 off one delivery.

You can also choose baskets from Les Potagers des nues mains If you choose to receive organic vegetables and eggs throughout the summer from Les Potagers des nues mains farm in Sutton using my link, I get $20 worth of vegetables.

Loved Brian’s definition of being Canadian:

Freedom, the chance to do what we want and the chance to make something of ourselves and bring other people along.”

Thanks also to Brian and the Epiphany congregation for donating chairs and tables to the Grand Potager non-profit, which animates Verdun’s municipal greenhouses.

For the latest information, read:

I did a story about a concert at Epiphany in 2014 before Brian was the spiritual leader there.

Here’s the transcript of part of our conversation:

[00:08:04] Maybe on the Internet or just be at peace with the music. The lighting adjustable just so you can feel a little bit of quiet in this busy city. If they want noise, they can go downstairs because it was noisy down there. It’s fun with people but sometimes you need to meet somebody to talk with. Sometimes, you just need to be quiet by yourself or whatever. So that’s what we’d like to do here. This a storage area and that would disappear. There’s a little staircase that goes up there and there’s a little room with windows out onto the street. It’s really just a storage area. But imagine if that space where the windows are in would go into the loft. You could just sit and you could hear people going by on the street and we’d window it all to make it safe. And windows down into the staircase and it would be around the font because we’re not moving the font. And of course, that’s why we would call it the second dip.

[00:08:56] Because because you’ve got the door right where they can actually come up off the street if they want or they can go..

[00:09:06] Exactly. We have to front doors and we have wheelchair access on this side to go up and down. We’re also able to sit and be quiet and of course, we need resources because you can’t just leave people. Right. Well, this is enough of a space especially once this is cleaned out. I saw a picture of it and they were not there because I’ve always seen that there. And even after the service will just sit there talking about me.

[00:09:52] There’s a fellow that I interviewed for the Montrealer and he’s into philanthropy and he gives to mental health research. They have a new program where they’re bringing something that happens in Australia which is these little cafés, but they have health people in them so that they can identify youth with mental health problems when it’s early enough to actually get healing. It’s called Access and there’s going to be one opening up in Dorval and there’s one opening up in the Douglas. You may want to connect with them and see if that can be part of your program because it’s just a wonderful idea by having open easy space for people to come and you yet having just enough resources so that there’s someone who recognizes signs of trouble before it’s actually a problem. He thinks his son would be still alive if he’d had that kind of a resource.

[00:10:37] If it starts at noon I’m usually like 45 minutes ahead of time because you walk in and you see people someone just sitting quietly. And it’s again recognizing the need and to be open to recognizing the need. Very often it’s by the shoulder or by their eyes. So if you can connect with the eyes and you get a sense of what’s happening with them. When I used to do clinical pastoral training in the hospital, I walk up and down the halls and I looked into the various rooms and I could connect with their eyes. One person, I looked at their eyes and they look straight at me. And I looked at the porter and he said, that he didn’t want anything to do with any clergy. Well I was drawn. I walked into the room twice just to make sure.

[00:03:36] I went in and I said hi I’m here to see so and so, do you know where he is. Which was true and he said well he’s off on tests and I said how are you doing today? He said fine. Can I come in? Yes, he said it’s a special day today. Two years ago today, my wife died of cancer. He said, “you may have heard,” and this is a tough story.

[00:12:56] It just shows right about being aware, which was such a lesson to me to listen to that still small voice.

[00:13:03] You may have heard three weeks ago they found a boy inert in the swimming pool. That was my son. I remember hearing it again and I’m thinking who am I who can offer any kind of advice or help to this person? So we start to talk a little bit about and then he says “my two girls, they’re with my mother right now. So when I get better I’ll be able to take them–my little girl wants my wife’s Harley Davidson

[00:13:31] So you drive Harley’s?

[00:13:31] My wife and I always drove Harleys. My brother drives Harleys. I came this close to getting a Harley, but instead, I bought an Audi TT Roadster.

[00:13:42] He says “really. I have a BMW z 4.

[00:13:45] Oh I love European cars. I used to drive SAUBs.

[00:14:47] Really he says. I had a 1993.

[00:14:50] Not a 9000?

[00:14:52] Yeah black with dark tan.

[00:04:53] Yeah me too. I traded it for a 96 dark green with light tan.

[00:14:57] Yes.

[00:14:57] And then we talked about his Corvette. I said I have a Corvette – -a 76 Corvette bright Red. LA2 I said yeah.

[00:15:02] We went through all this. I said “you’re getting tired. Can we pray?

[00:15:08] He says yes. So I closed my eyes and I looked at my hand and he grabs my hand and holds tight and we prayed. What a lesson about connecting.

[00:15:27] And there are so many people that had walked by that room. I’ve heard of other people walking past pastoral trainers etc. So how can we be open when somebody comes in? Indeed they don’t even know how to express their need, whether it’s for food, whether it’s for education or for love or just a place where they can speak to someone.

[00:15:48] I used to get this…I used to be in financial planning. We used to do reports for people and they’d create a powerful bond. Especially after a big project, clients would call me. It’s time for the lunch Bryan. So I’d take them out for lunch and within five minutes they’d start talking about their personal life reaching out and that’s one of the things that led me to become a priest, a minister, a pastor. I was working with Welcome Home Mission thinking wow this would be good to do would I retire. I retired at 52. I quit. And I thought I could go on a mission. Amazing how I went from running a Mission to working in a hospital to working in parishes to compel them to work in missions. Now I’m at a church that is a Mission. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

[00:16:39] How old are you?

[00:16:39] 61. I started seminary at 52 it was five full-time, Sunday included. And I’m a CEGEP dropout. And I did okay at McGill. When I was in high school, we knew the guys going to McGill. Me and my buddies. When I graduated, I went and bought myself a hat and I even wore it in today. I wear that McGill cap because boy I had to work hard for it.

[00:17:05] The last question I have which is the question I ask everyone is do you consider yourself a Canadian?

[00:17:18] Yeah.

[00:17:18] And what does it mean to you?

[00:17:24] Freedom. A chance to do anything we want to make something of ourselves and to bring other people along the way. Thank you so much.


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Manon Barbe Profile on Page 1

My profile of longtime LaSalle borough mayor Manon Barbe appears on page 1 of yesterday’s (March 14) City Edition of the Suburban.

Barbe is a great example of a successful political leader who has broken many glass ceilings over the years through dedicated service, gumption and persistence. I don’t agree with all the positions she holds on issues, but her ability to make decisions and stand by them is admirable. She also works hard. I’ve seen her personally wait tables to serve veterans their lunch at LaSalle Legion events.


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Ste. Anne’s First Nation Heritage

Can the trajectory of Canada’s development be shown in miniature by looking at the life of a small community on the shores of the Seine River between Winnipeg, Manitoba and Grand Forks, North Dakota?

I hope so because the twists and turns in the nature of the town offer me hints about who my ancestors were and how they lived during a crucial period in the history of our country.

The town, which is now known as Ste. Anne, has served as a haven for Aboriginal, Métis, French, Immigrant, and Catholic peoples over the years. It changed its name to match the most important value held by a majority of its settlers and has been known as Oak Point, Pointe-des-Chênes, St. Alexandre, Ste.-Anne, Sainte-Anne-Pointe-des-Chênes and Ste.-Anne des Chênes.

I’m curious about the place because a family tree my grandmother left me says that my four-times great grandmother Marie Sophie (or Séraphie) Henault-Canada was born and died there. I haven’t found anything to confirm her data, but the 1870 Manitoba Census shows Sophie and her husband farming in the community. It also indicates Charles Enault was her father.[1] The Hudson Bay Company Archives show Charles Henault being in the community as of 1810.[2]

Ste. Anne’s location between the boreal forests of the Canadian Shield and the flat plains of the Red River always made it prime real estate for settlement. Nomads sought good hunting grounds and shelter from high winds close to the era’s key transportation infrastructure along the river and via trails. Later, the plains made for good year-round farming sheltered by high oak. Eventually, the area attracted entrepreneurs and became a bustling pioneer town. Gathering settlers attracted Catholic missionaries who turned the town into a full-blown Catholic parish. Today, the same community sits at the junction of two major highways and has become a suburban community of Winnipeg.

Sophie’s birth on April 6, 1818 may have taken place within a local First Nation. I’ve found traces of several in the area, including the Rouseau River Band, the Oak Point First Nation, the Saultaux First Nation and the Upper Fort Garry First Nation.[3]

It’s also possible that her father was a Voyageur who came to the area from another First Nation elsewhere in North America.

Her father and mother may also have been among Métis settlers known to winter in the area during that period.

As early as 1820, Métis families were wintering at Pointe-des-Chênes, southeast of St. Boniface on the Seine River. The area had a mix of mature forest and grasslands suitable for farming. The large oak groves served as a source of income for the settlers — lumber cut in the parish in 1820 was used for building a large chapel at St. Boniface.[4]

A combination of forests and plains enabled the family to pasture farmed livestock, cut timber for building materials and fuel, and hunt wild game.[5]

Scottish settlers who came under Lord Selkirk’s Red River Settlement plan were attracted by similar amenities, with many establishing farms and businesses in the region during Sophie’s childhood. Métis workers set up local farms after losing their jobs when the North Western and Hudson Bay companies merged in 1821.

Over the next thirty years, the lifestyles of the settlers and First Nations began to clash. By 1852, Oak Point settlers and the chief of the local First Nation, Saulteaux Chief Na-sa-kee-by-ness/ Na-sha-ke-penais/ ‘Flying Down Bird’/ Grandes Oreilles (son of Les Grandes Oreilles) had negotiated a treaty so that First Nations groups would move out of the area.[6]

My ancestors stayed put and continued to farm as the town grew rapidly. By 1856, when the Government of Canada chose to purchase Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, it boasted a trading post, hotel, general store and jail.

The St. Alexander chapel opened in 1861 and began attracting Catholics. In the following decade, the town became the parish of Sainte Anne to attract additional settlers.

Still, my ancestors stayed and continued farming. The 1870 Hudson Bay Census shows Sophie and her husband Dominique Ducharme-Charron living on lot 27 with four of their children Johnny 19, Roger 17, Joseph 13 and Marie, 12. [7]

During the 1870s, Ste. Anne served as a stopover for travellers on their journey to Winnipeg along the famed Dawson Trail, a path linking Northern Ontario and the Red River Settlement. It was so heavily developed by 1881, Dominion surveyors maintained its traditional French-style long river-side lots instead of breaking it up into square lots.

If my grandmothers’ notes are accurate, Sophie died in Sainte Anne in 1882 at the age of 64 years, five months and ten days.

Today, 2,114 people live in her community and the land she once farmed has been paved over by the #12 and Trans Canada highways.



[1]1870 Census Of Manitoba, Library and Archives Canada – https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1870/Pages/1870.aspx

[2] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

[3]Barkwell, Lawrence J. “The Métis First Nation Band at Upper Fort Garry,” February 14, 2017, Louis Riel Institute, Manitoba,  https://www.scribd.com/document/337524184/The-Metis-First-Nation-Band-at-Upper-Fort-Garry, accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

[4] Hall, Norma J. Provissional Government of Assiniboia, Ste-Anne, https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/resources/definition-provisional-government/the-people-electorate/ste-anne/, accessed Feb. 26, 2018.

[5] https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/hrb/internal_reports/pdfs/crow_wing_settlement_groups.pdf, accessed Feb 26, 2018

[6] Hall, N. J. (2015, March 15). Ste.-Anne/ Point des Chêne/ Sainte-Anne-Pointe-des-Chênes/ Ste.-Anne des Chênes/ Oak Point/ St. Alexandre. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/resources/definition-provisional-government/the-people-electorate/ste-anne/

[7] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

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