It’s awesome to be able to celebrate Freedom to Read Week, which begins today.See this in video here
Do we still need this kind of celebration? Isn’t censorship dead in Canada?
Not all. Did you know that politician Victor Doerksen and 810 others tried to get John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” banned from all Alberta schools in 1994?
Of Mice and Men sits among 30 works that have been challenged in Canada over the last 35 year of this event. You can read the entire list on the Books and Periodical Council Freedom to Read Week website.
Reading about such things surprises me, but it shouldn’t. People are always trying to impose their taste on others.
Canadian creators, librarians and schools set up Freedom to Read Week events to celebrate and encourage the right to freedom of expression. It has taken place in Canada for the last 35 years.
This year, it begins on February 24 and ends March 2.
Freedom to Read Week operates as a project by a committee set up by the Books and Periodical Council. The Council represents creator associations across Canada, including one I’m in, the Professional Writers Association of Canada.
Freedom of Expression matters a great deal to all of us.
At the same time, we do not condone hate literature, something that is illegal in Canada.
Defining Freedom of Expression can be difficult. The Books and Periodical Council uses a joint statement written in 1997 and reaffirmed in 2017 to do so. Here it is:
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right of all Canadians, and freedom to read is part of that precious heritage. Our Committee, representing member organizations and associations of the Book and Periodical Council, reaffirms its support of this vital principle and opposes all efforts to suppress writing and silence writers. Words and images in their myriad configurations are the substance of free expression.
The freedom to choose what we read does not, however, include the freedom to choose for others. We accept that courts alone have the authority to restrict reading material, a prerogative that cannot be delegated or appropriated. Prior restraint demeans individual responsibility; it is anathema to freedom and democracy.
As writers, editors, publishers, book manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and librarians, we abhor arbitrary interpretations of the law and other attempts to limit freedom of expression. We recognize court judgments; otherwise, we oppose the detention, seizure, destruction, or banning of books and periodicals – indeed, any effort to deny, repress, or sanitize. Censorship does not protect society; it smothers creativity and precludes open debate of controversial issues.
The list of challenged works that someone in Canada deemed offensive includes many works. A diversity of cultural expression works about gender identity, multiculturalism and panoply of other politically-sensitive issues appear.
The nonfiction books among them include:
Of Mice and Men fits right in.
The 811 people who signed a petition presented to the Albertan legislature in 1994 claimed that Steinbeck’s classic book “demeans or profanes the name of God and Jesus Christ.”
I can’t argue about the profanity. Consider the following quote from paragraph 62 on Saturday Night.
“I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an’ on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an’ that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an’ they quit an’ go on; an’ every damn one of ’em’s got a little piece of land in his head. An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it.”
Not sure how a quote from a fictional character demeans God though. Nor do I agree that that would be a reason to ban a book anyway.
Steinbeck’s work expresses an intense period in American history. It’s also extraordinarily well-written.
Think I’m going to make a point of reading it to celebrate Freedom to Read.
Or maybe I’ll just read Travels With Charlie again. That’s my favourite non-fiction work of all time. Steinbeck wrote it too.
I had fun interviewing professional genealogist Johanne Gervais for this week’s podcast. Here are some highlights from our conversation.Listen to Unapologetically Canadian Episode 19: Johanne Gervais Helps us Research our Ancestors
Our discussion began with the question “how did you become a genealogist?”
I became interested in genealogy while helping my husband who retired in 2008. He wanted to write a book about his mother’s family for his mother’s 90th birthday. So I was a little hesitant because he wanted me to do the research on his family. He knew nothing about his mother’s mother’s family past his grandmother. So I did all the research for him up to his third great grandparents including were searching for family stories finding the houses his ancestors lived in the actual establishments they worked in. His mom came from England, so researching his ancestors was a really a good excuse for us to take a trip to England. So we did some research there.
We went there to where his mom was born to the little villages where his ancestors lived. We actually knocked on the doors of these houses and asked for tours of the inside of the homes and the grounds outside. And these people were only too happy to show us around. So this type of research was fascinating. For me, it was like wow you know we can actually visit a home that his great grandparents lived in and see what they did.
After her husband retired, Johanne decided to retire too.
So I left the corporate world of information technology and dedicated myself to genealogical research.
Eventually, she founded a new non-profit entity.
My local Geological Society was about an hour’s drive from my home … So I would spend two hours driving. Combined with the time I spent at the society, it was a full day. So that was always a bit of a dilemma for me. And I thought well there must be a better way. The society wasn’t always open when I wanted to do research. So I’m sometimes an early bird and sometimes I like to work late at night. The more I studied my problem, the more I realized that I couldn’t possibly be the only one having difficulty getting into the local society.
Johanne described her theory of “can’ts, won’ts and wants” to describe the ideal clients for the association.
The “can’ts” are those who can’t visit their local society because maybe it is too far away or isn’t open when they’re available.
“Won’ts” are those who won’t visit a society because it’s not really their cup of tea or it doesn’t heir fit their lifestyle.
The “wants” are those who want more than what the physical society can offer them. They want to have their society open when they’re ready to do the research.
So began our discussion about how we might attract younger people to the world of genealogy.
I have four grandchildren, Tracey, and they are all teenagers. A couple of years ago, as I left to go into the to the society or to the archives downtown, my grandchildren would say “Nana why are you going to a library or the Archive Center? Can’t you just do that on your phone? Can’t you do the research through your iPad or your phone?”
This is the next generation that we want to share in our genealogical research. We want them to continue with that philosophy. No other problem was more clear in my mind. Hey wait a minute. There’s got to be a better way.
The Quebec Genealogical Esociety now has members from all over the world. They can access web sites and research their ancestors without leaving the comfort of their homes, and without having to spend hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to hire a researcher to do it for them.
How many people belong to the Québec Genealogical eSociety and what do they get as members?
As of today, we have 212 members. And right now we have about 43 percent are French speaking. Tthe majority are Anglophone people who come mostly from the United States and from Ontario and the other provinces in Canada who wish to do their research and research on their Quebec ancestors.
I don’t want people to get the wrong impression here of why it created the society because people who live in the province of Quebec are so fortunate because we have such robust databases for birth records marriage records and death records. And most French-speaking communities have a local Geological Society. Almost every French-speaking community or community in the province of Quebec that I know of has a geological society in their community or very close by. So we are extremely fortunate in the province of Quebec. And my main focus was people living outside of the province of Quebec who could not get here because of travel and/or the language barrier.[00:25:21] So we will have a message board soon on our Web site where members can post their brick walls and ask questions to other members. So that’s we’re in the final testing stages right now with our software developer. That’s going to be up any day now hopefully by the end of February. So yeah it’s very exciting because I think for everyone who does genealogical research or our research and their ancestors all of us reach a brick wall somewhere sand they are always asking questions.
What kind of work do you do?
So when I first when I first retired it was like OK OK now what am I going to do? I really like to do geological research. So I applied to various geological large geological firms in them in the United States—Ancestry, Legacy Family Tree and Genealogist.com. Those three companies provide research facilities for people that want to hire them to do to research their families. So this was this was quite interesting because I received a lot of contracts
I still am working as a contractor for these firms but I really want to orient people towards doing their research themselves versus hiring a researcher. If they’re capable of doing the research themselves. So some people are not capable or are not that computer literate or are advanced in their in their senior years and don’t want to do it themselves.
But for the ones that are capable I really do encourage them instead of hiring me or that they’ll hire me for a couple of hours and else I’ll say here’s how you could do it yourself versus you know me spending 20 hours or more research in their tree for them.
We then discussed Johanne’s membership in the Association of Profesional Genealogists, an association that’s based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
I joined that association when I first started in 2009 in the early years just so I can learn more about how to professionally and research for a client and how to do my sources and how to write research reports. So I’ve been to Salt Lake City multiple times for the Association of Professional Genealogists conferences to learn more about how to improve my research skills.
Johanne and some of the other members are in the process of creating a Canadian chapter for the Association of Professional Genealogists.
We really don’t have an umbrella group in Canada to help genealogist research or to answer questions. You know if people in the in Nova Scotia have questions about how to research in Nova Scotia or you know British Columbia we don’t have an umbrella organization that can help genealogists in various aspects doing research in different provinces or doing a state researching which is forensic genealogy. That kind of thing. So we’re hoping that we can create an umbrella group for all of Canada where genealogists can join and then we can share our expertise and say okay here in Quebec this is what we do and somebody in Saskatchewan will say well in Saskatchewan you know here’s what we do.
I think first and foremost I consider myself to be a Quebecker. I was born here in Quebec as were my two brothers. My parents were also born here but I haven’t lived in Quebec all my life because my dad was in the Canadian Armed Forces. So we grew up in various places across Canada. Recently my parents retired in Nova Scotia.
Truly I’m a Quebecker, but I do consider myself a Canadian.
Living in various towns across Canada really showed me the expanse of the country and how culturally diverse we are. We’re so open to different walks of life, from religions, politics and interests. Being in these different towns and going into different schools …I had to go to different schools and must have changed schools five or six times. People are so darned friendly to each other no matter what province or town we lived in.
In 2011 or 2012, the couple dedicated a 47-day journey to follow her husband’s father’s footsteps during World War II.
We started from Pier 21 in Halifax where my husband’s dad’s regiment left to go to Europe and he actually didn’t go to Europe right away. The ship went to Iceland. So we went to Iceland we followed. We had researched the regiment in detail as to where they went and we followed exactly where the regiment went all the way throughout World War II. So we went to Iceland we went to Scotland we went to England and France.
His father became a prisoner of war and he spent three years in prisoner of war camp. Johanne and her husband went to Germany and Poland where his father was incarcerated for three years to visit the locations of the prisoner of war camps.
And what I wanted to say here is that in every country we went to once people we met knew we were Canadians. They embraced us as if we were long lost members of their family. It was just so emotional. And by embracing, I mean you know they actually physically hugged us and kissed us and said ‘thank you thank you’ for the role that Canadians played during the war. And they would invite us to their homes. They would show us around their town … it was so very emotional. And I’ve never felt ever so proud to be a Canadian.
Johanne’s husband, Michael John Laekas, wrote a book about his father and his father’s life during World War II. The couple also produced a book about three brothers who served during World War I
Note: This episode was brought to you by Kobo. If you’re a Canadian reader, and you want to join Kobo, you can use my affiliate link and get $5 off while getting me a $10 credit on my account. You can also order Michael’s books via the links below and I’ll get a commission.
Did you know that international treaties determine creator rights? They also determine how we can sell our work.
The answers to all of these questions and many more can be found within copyright legislation in each country. The rules within that legislation, however, usually stem from international treaties.
International treaties determine:
The balance between these three rights alternates depending on the authority, popularity and power of the people arguing for each right.
In the early days of copyright, commercialization formed the only property right worth protecting. This tradition began in England soon after Gutenberg discovered his printing press and printers hired writers to create books.
Initially, the government passed laws regarding who got the economic benefits and to ensure censorship.
Later John Milton and John Locke complained about the system to argue in favour of a free exchange of ideas. Then legislators revised copyright to create a public domain.
A similar argument took place in Paris almost two centuries later.
Famous author Victor Hugo defended the public domain, as shown in the following 1886 quote:
The book, as a book, belongs to the author, but as a thought, it belongs – the word is not too extreme – to the human race. All intelligences, all minds, are eligible, all own it. If one of these two rights, the right of the writer and the right of the human mind, were to be sacrificed, it would certainly be the right of the writer, because the public interest is our only concern, and that must take precedence in anything that comes before us. [Numerous sounds of approval.]But, as I just said, this sacrifice is not necessary.”
Hugo also became a chief proponent of “author rights” as the most important form of property right that exists. Unlike other forms, he said, the idea of an author’s right hurts no one since it covers an entirely new creation.
He became so incensed about the subject, he founded The International Literary and Artistic Association (ALAI), “an independent learned society dedicated to studying and discussing legal issues arising in connection with the protection of the interests of creative individuals” that still exists today.
In Canada, our Copyright Act encompasses two distinct traditions: an English-speaking one and a French-speaking one.
Like the international situation, the Canadian Copyright Act provides differing levels of rights to creators, distributors and users based on popular trends. The 1997 revisions took economic rights away from creators to give them to educational institutions.
Another revision will occur later this year or next, primarily due to our signature on the NAFTA treaty last autumn. This article from last fall outlines what was expected. I haven’t found any clear outline of what we actually have to do under the deal now that it’s passed.
The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology just finished hearings about how it should update the Copyright Act. If you’d like to read the submissions, they are available on the committee website, where presumably the report will also appear once it’s ready.
Europe also has a revision of copyright rules underway that are continuing to evolve based on the discussions around Brexit.
Given that copyright laws are being updated in Canada and elsewhere right now, I thought it was a good time to highlight the international treaties that enable all creators to own and sell our work.
Here’s my brief infographic to give you an idea of which treaties you want to understand.
What is affiliate marketing?
If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll notice that I’ve added links to products that I recommend onto various posts. Those links identify me to the company involved. If you purchase a product using one of my links, I get a commission.
I’ve identified my affiliates as a list of recommendations under the “work with me” tab.
I experimented with this brand of marketing a few years ago. The hassle of getting the affiliate links to work on my site made it too difficult given the few visitors who clicked on the links.
Recently, I decided to experiment with them again, because people have been asking me where they can purchase my books.
Also, affiliate revenue makes sense as I explore the self-publishing model more deeply than before.
But I’m still struggling with the technology.
Companies want assurances that your relationship with them will lead to sales, so you have to apply to get the right to put links on your site.
Then you have to learn their operating system to get the links you actually want. My site is not an e-commerce site, so I have no desire for those massive banners all over the place.
All I want to do is give you the appropriate deep link so that you can buy my books, buy a book I recommend; or try one of the services I love without too much trouble while also supporting my work.
That takes time and I’m not that proficient at creating deep links properly.
The result, once I get it set up will be awesome though. Country flags tell you which link to use. If you’re in Canada, you can order from Canadian stores. If you’re in Brazil, you can order from stores in that country.
I also believe in the model itself. Affiliations enable companies to track new clients with recommendations from customers and put a value on word-of-mouth.
It also gives companies a chance to fix something when they mess up.
I’ve purchased many products using affiliation codes from people I love. Recently, I had a mild problem with one of these services. My business isn’t crucial to this company yet, but I contacted the person who recommended them to me. That person kindly sent them an email on my behalf and the company in question fixed the problem right away.
That’s the kind of community these affiliations create. It’s like living in a small town. All of a sudden, none of us are numbers anymore.
We’re all people.
When affiliates work the way they should, and when everyone takes a personal interest in the products they recommend, everyone ends up knowing someone who can help when things go wrong.
So I apologize for any broken links or frustrations you might experience. Just let me know, and I’ll try to fix it.
And thank you to everyone who purchases something from one of the companies I recommend.
Also, thank you to the people who recommended the products I love.
Since I selected “peace” as my word of the year for 2019, I thought it useful to investigate mindfulness to see if it had any applications in the life of a creative entrepreneur.
Mindfulness, like prayer, requires a belief that we exist as part of a wider entity. That’s useful when you’re working hard to create abundance and growth, both as an individual and as a leader in the community.
For the last year or so, I’ve been practicing moments of mindfulness when I’m particularly stressed. That’s something I want to remember during this time of year when client expectations compete with plans for the upcoming year, grant applications and closing down last year and paying taxes.
So, what is mindfulness?
I like John Yates (Culadasa) description of mindfulness as the “the optimal interaction between attention and peripheral awareness.”
So far, I’ve noticed that it’s easiest to practice mindfulness on days when I’ve slept well, taken time to eat and exercise and am concentrating on a single task.
Clinicians have also found ways to use mindfulness to heal major illnesses.
According to Wikipedia, Clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness since the 1970s. They are known for helping people:
As a Catholic, having a healthy mind doesn’t solely mean being able to function in a secular world. For me, mindfulness works best when I approach it as a kind of prayer.
I’m not the only one who considers prayer a form of mindfulness either. Many world religions include a form of mindfulness in their spiritual practices.
Most people think that mindfulness comes from Eastern philosophies and religions such as Buddhism, but the Catholic faith also has a long-standing practice of mindfulness.
A book called The Path to Our Door by Rev. Ellen Clark-King, the archdeacon of Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral in downtown Vancouver, says that the popularity of Buddhist meditation has been good for Christianity. It allows us to discover meditative and contemplative methods within our heritage.
Some philosophies in the church describe a ladder of spirituality that begins with prayer, leads to meditation and ends with contemplation.
Most people in the west began learning about contemplative prayer after reading books by Thomas Merton. Merton, who practiced Catholicism as Father Louis, describes a traditional practice of prayer that is “centred entirely on the presence of God”. Merton also wrote the Seven Storey Mountain in 1948.
Wikipedia has a site for an even more modern Centring Prayer Movement created by Thomas Keating. The Wikipedia article describes a number of leaders in the field.
Keating, Merton and Clark-King all benefit from “The Cloud of Unknowing,” a book written anonymously in the 14th century. An English monk probably authored The Cloud of Unknowing.
The author promoted a kind of prayer in which you keep silent as long as possible noticing thoughts as they occur without paying attention to them.
In Canada, many groups form part of the mindfulness movement, including the Contemplative Society on Salt Spring Island and most Anglican and Catholic Churches.
The Centring Prayer Movement Centre in Montreal holds meditation events every Monday evening at 19h at 5530 Isabella on Clanranald corner in Notre Dame de Grâce.
Christ Church Cathedral, at 635 Ste-Catherine St. West offers talks and silent meditation from 17:45 until 18:45 the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.
There’s also Mecum, 8598 Des Rapides LaSalle QC H8P 2W2.
A collaborative community non-profit association called Mindfulness Montreal offers occasional events too. It was founded by three Montreal practitioners, Dr. Andreanne Éli (Clinique Psyché) Dr. Joe Flanders (MindSpace), and Muriel Jaouich (True North Insight). Since Éli works at the University of Montreal, Flanders at McGill and Jaouich at UQAM, the collaboration also links to three of our universities.
The organization’s first event at UQAM sold out last year.
This year, they’re planning a full weekend of activities at McGill and UQAM from April 19th to April 22nd. The full weekend costs $525, but individual presentations cost $40 or $50.
These centres offer good opportunities to get in-person training in mindfulness.
I’d like to commit to practicing mindfulness and its deeper cousin, meditation, in the next year to help me focus and take care of my personal health. If things go well, perhaps I’ll move towards a level of contemplation sometime later.
What kind of mindfulness do you practice? Does it help heal your body and spirit?