“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

- Crowfoot

Thursday, December 22, 2011


There is one question I always get asked when I tell people that I am going to Ft. Albany for my final placement.
How cold is it there?!
Well, in an attempt to answer that question, along with my countdown to the right (-->) of your screen, I have also added a weather icon. As of this post, the temperature is currently -24c. Please be assured, as I was, that this is simply a 'cold snap' as the forecast later in the week goes back up to... -15c... dang.

We have lift off!

Last week I called the hospital to talk with an employee to arrange housing. The person that I was talking with said that she had left for Christmas holidays and wouldn't be back until the end of January! Needless to say, I was panicked. "You mean I am going to voluntarily spend 3 days getting to a fly in community in the midst of a housing emergency in the middle of winter without a guarantee of having anywhere to live?"

Pictures of me arriving at the hospital, suitcases in tow and sleeping on a bench in the ward (a la Tom Hanks in The Terminal) flashed through my mind.

Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, stranded traveler, in 'The Terminal.'
After a week trying, today I finally got in touch with another member of staff (who I feared may be holiday as well). After directing me to the gentleman who was managing the housing portfolio while Employee #1 is on holiday. He said that as a matter of fact she is only off until the end of December, not January (relief!) and to just email her to let her know when I am expected to arrive and either she or him will meet me at the airport. Thank goodness!

So now I am free to book my tickets, etc. Tomorrow I am heading into Union Station (in Toronto) to buy my train tickets, which are conveniently unavailable for purchase online, and will book my flight.

The journey will be three legs over three days, as follows:

Train #1 departs in the morning from Toronto and arrives in Cochrane in the evening.
Train #2 departs the next morning from Cochrane and arrives in Moosonee at night.
After staying overnight in Moosonee, I then fly in the morning to Ft. Albany.

The plan is to leave on January 3rd for two reasons, (a) because I have to be there for Monday the 9th and the trains don't run on the weekend and (b) to allow a little leeway in case of inclement weather.

A couple of interesting stories:

First, the train that I will be taking from Cochrane to Moosonee is called.... *drum roll please*

The Polar Bear Express.

This is actually a 'flag down' train.

One of my professors actually worked in Moose Factory (near Moosonee) 'a thousand years ago' and took this same train up. She told me the story of her journey up. There was a terrible snow storm that forced the hunters out of the bush and to the tracks where they flagged down the train, threw their catches in the cargo areas and climbed aboard. The journey took hours longer than it should have. As this train only goes through once a day, the train had to keep reversing and accelerating through the snow build ups. When she got there, she was completely overwhelmed but felt better when even the elders in the community said that they had never seen a snow storm as bad!

So, the wheels are starting to slowly roll, though I feel that the pace will speed to blinding very, very soon. Until next time!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

First Placement Update!

Since my last post, a LOT has happened. Considering my last post was in May, I would be worried if it hadn't. I have been to England, worked four months and returned; started and finished a placement with a visiting nursing agency in the Durham Region; Christmas is coming and I am organizing next semester's placement.

When placement preferences were submitted, I had requested Moose Factory, Ontario. When this didn't work out I was instead placed here:

Fort Albany, ON

Fort Albany is a Cree First Nation situated (as you can plainly see) on James Bay, or as I like to refer to it the 'foot of the old woman,' that is Hudson Bay. The only way to get in or out of this community is by plane (year round) or by winter road (only while the water has frozen sufficiently to support trucks) - trains to not travel that far north. I will be there from the beginning of January to the beginning of April. Average temperatures at this point on the 52nd parallel at this time of year average -23c. 

As a nursing student, for a $500 temporary deposit, I am guaranteed housing and (theoretical) warmth, with a roof and four walls, all of which are full of insulation that is not contaminated by black mold. This is in direct contrast to many houses on this reserve.

You may have heard about the State of Emergency that was declared by Attawapiskat First Nation at the end of October (and was completely and utterly ignored for a grand total of three weeks). Since this declaration, two other Ontario reserves have joined Attawapiskat's declaration, these being Kashechewan and Fort Albany First Nations. Directly related to the lack of adequate housing on these reserves, many residents are forced to live in tents or plywood shacks with makeshift stoves made out of metal barrels. Many of the more 'substantial' dwellings (and this term is used very loosely), are contaminated with black mold due to roof leaks etc and are either condemned buildings or are in need of drastic renovations.

Like I said, I am lucky enough to have housing provided for whilst I am passing through, so no need to worry! However many are not so lucky. I will keep you all informed as to my progress in planning, booking trains/flights etc as well as my experiences whilst I am living with members of Fort Albany First Nation in such a Northern community!

Talk to you all later!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Harper's Cabinet Appointments

Despite falling one member short of the record of 40, Stephen Harper's cabinet is entirely disappointing on several counts. First, I must give credit where credit is due: in a small step forward, the government renamed the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs, deciding to call it the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Leaders from various First Nations in Canada have both said that this does not go far enough, lumping all Aboriginal nations into one group (and should in fact separate the three into First Nations, Metis and Inuit, as they are distinct cultures) and that this is a good beginning.

Another good beginning might have been to appoint one of five aboriginal MPs in his party to the portfolio, so that for the first time in history the affairs of Canada's aboriginal nations could be regulated by a member of the community. But no, instead a non-Aboriginal was once again appointed to manage the portfolio. The two aboriginal MPs appointed to cabinet were assigned to other portfolios.

Moving on, following the unceremonious departure of Helena Guergis, Minister for the Status of Women, the position was never filled. And despite the fact that his cabinet is almost as large as cabinets have ever been, this position has not reappeared. So now, in addition to closing 12 of the 16 Status of Women offices, we no longer have a minister devoted to the portfolio.

Now I am left wondering just what the criteria are for incurring the wrath of Stephen Harper. Ms Guergis was dismissed from cabinet and from her party on the basis of what turned out to be a rumour (someone told a PI, who told the PM, who told the RCMP that she was seen snorting drugs at a club - allegations which were never proven). Yet Bev Oda, who has admitted to lying through her teeth to parliament about an altered document and then is defended by the Prime Minister, not only gets re-elected, but appointed back to cabinet?!?!

For those of you unaware, she said she did not know who had altered a document which led to the de-funding of KAIROS. Then less than a month later changed her tune and said that while she didn't know specifically who had made the alterations, that she had ordered them made - after the president of CIDA had already signed the document. Stephen Harper went on to defend her, saying that it wouldn't have matter anyway because the minister has the final say and can overrule any committee recommendation. That KAIROS would have lost its funding anyway.

This is on top of appointing three defeated Conservative candidates to the senate after promising reforms.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sideways - Citizen Cope

You know it ain't easy
For these thoughts here to leave me
There's no words to describe it
In French or in English
Well, diamonds they fade
And flowers they bloom
And I'm telling you
These feelings won't go away
They've been knockin' me sideways
They've been knockin' me out lately
Whenever you come around me
These feelings won't go away
They've been knockin' me sideways
I keep thinking in a moment that
Time will take them away
But these feelings won't go away

Listen here

Monday, January 17, 2011


I love quotes. I could spend all day reading quotes. It seems as though everyone else is so much more articulate than I am. I read a particularly resonant quote and think to myself, "This person has just put into words a phenomenon that I didn't even recognize existed until they articulated it so well." Then I wonder how I had overlooked that particular phenomenon. Quote reading has been a hobby of mine since eighth grade when I needed to find a quote to begin my speech about Gloria Steinem with (I think only recently have I discovered just how controversial a figure she is). The quote I chose resides somewhere in my gut, probably right next to my heart. Or that place that sinks when you hear tragic news that sickens you or rises into your throat when you are excited. The quote goes like this:

Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have always thought that this would be the quote that stayed with me my entire life. This has been my motto since I found it 7 years (!) ago. It likely will continue to hold this position as it is easy to remember and something worth living by. However, this night has provided some stiff competition in the race for number 1 quote. This quote does not inspire, it does not fire up the spirit. Instead it describes... well, I doubt I could explain it while giving it the justice it deserves, so I will let it speak for itself.

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear. - Stephen King (Different Seasons)
After a quote like that, I may just have to start reading more (or any) Stephen King. Though I not necessarily one for sci-fi or mystery novels.