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Canada - The Land by Sybil E. Sewell
I grew up in a bombed suburb of London, England at the end of WW II, and always looked forward to summer holidays which provided a stay of several weeks with an aunt who lived in the country. I loved farms and all livestock to be found there. On the death of my Dad, my Mum, sister and I (about age thirteen), eventually emigrated to Quebec to stay with relatives. There I completed the last three years of high school and a B. Ed. at McGill. Throughout those years I enjoyed the English language, especially reading, writing poems, compositions/essays etc. as well as drawing and painting. Over the ensuing seven decades that love has not diminished.
Later, after marriage and family, I became a ‘former’ teacher living in rural Quebec. However it was our first farm that catapulted me into a writing career. A small gray donkey named 'Eeyore' became the first riding animal for our two children and kept my saddle horse company. I soon realized that although donkeys were common in England, they were generally unknown to most Canadians. Thanks to Eeyore, who taught our family about donkeys, I wrote a number of non-fiction articles on donkeys which sold to Canadian and American equine publications. Editors were delighted to publish such articles on unusual equines particularly when photos were supplied to illustrate the articles.
Ten years later we found ourselves on a small farm in Alberta where we plunged into establishing a donkey breeding operation and eventually became Canada's oldest breeders of rare registered American Mammoth Jack Stock, the largest donkeys in North America. I continued to write about them and thanks to Alberta Culture, Film and Literary Arts, a department led by John Patrick Gillese, writers were greatly encouraged to pursue the telling of their stories!
In the '80s Alberta government support allowed Alberta Culture to host speakers, seminars and writing courses throughout the province, all at low or no cost to ‘would-be’ authors. Communities were encouraged to write their histories, and writers could hone their skills by taking an Alberta Culture Correspondence Course. I took the Non-Fiction Course in 1983-84 in an effort to continually improve writing skills but vowed to sell an article per month while studying. And so I did! Computer literacy and additional photography courses followed, the most recent being a course on digital camera skills this year.
Western Canada was alive with folks whose stories of pioneer life were remarkable ! For example, I interviewed and wrote of a lady guide and outfitter in a man’s world, and of a senior gentleman who had driven 'school buses' (horse and sleigh/wagon), before the big yellow buses ever existed. Then there was the lady whose father-in-law had been an early settler in the area and spent his first year or two living in a cozy shelter dug into the side of a small hill. Of course the one room schools were a wealth of stories, especially about the Christmas Concerts. Such stories were all around us in the West Country and fitted periodical writing for country and rural magazines.
I am grateful to have been ‘in’ on the switch to digital technology and still marvel at the speed with which articles can flow from my hands to those of an editor in mere seconds, including photos. Even in a digital age where writing and photography have been facilitated by such technology, the arts that make our culture cannot be forced or manufactured; they have gradually been nurtured within Canada, woven into the historic tapestry of a country whose people have put heart and soul into our land.
Unfortunately health issues of the past decade or two have seriously slowed my writing. Nevertheless I sincerely hope that a return to free lance photo journalism or production of a book or two will be feasible in the future. However, that hope includes increased government recognition of the value of the arts in Canadian Culture, and support of same. Copyright belongs to the creator, and is the result of our work. Copyright should be paramount and guarded carefully whether we speak of music, paintings or illustrations, photography, the written word or myriad other art forms. As the old saying goes ‘How can you know where you are going if you don't know where you've been ?’ .
Our Canadian forebears forged the foundation for this country by wresting homes and farms from the land, fought for its freedom and passed on its stories. Such is the legacy of creativity, endurance and perseverance Canadians have inherited. Sadly some stories have already been lost. Were they not worthy of preservation? With the current whittling away of the true meaning of Copyright it will soon be impossible to make even a small living from one’s creative art talents. Will the inevitable result be an exodus of the valuable artistic resources from Canada? How sad that would be!
Let us not suffer our writers and publishers to dwindle away when their desire is to share Canada's stories and pictures around the world. Canadian culture is a remarkable, colourful tapestry to which all forms of the arts contribute and of which we all should be proud to protect and nurture, not destroy. Canada is our land!