Category Archives: Activism

Dear Samantha Nock,

I appreciate your contribution to the CanLit narrative that’s developed as a result of events at UBC.  Your open letter to Joseph Boyden moved me to tears.  I didn’t really want to follow the  debacle.  I’ve been busy with my own life, purposefully removing myself from everything I could to focus on my creative work this year.  But I couldn’t escape it.  I’m grateful my daughter posted your letter on Facebook.

To be honest, I usually pay little attention to universities.  I think I’ve written them off as ivory towers divorced from the grassroots, where I live and work.  That said, there are some I know who have done and are doing important things within the oppressive place.  Women, for example, have ensured that collective agreements and institutional policies are in place to address issues, such as this one, when they arise. Still, universities are imperfect institutions.  How could they not be?  They’re operated by imperfect humans working in stress-filled environments on too little money.  It doesn’t surprise me that situations are handled inappropriately even when policies and procedures are in place.

I’m also of the #ibelieveher variety, tending to believe women’s stories of abuse. That letter just didn’t fit, for all the reasons you suggest.  Now, it’s possible that the high-profile case of a former CBC employee left me more wounded than I’d thought.  And yes, I’ll readily admit to a degree of jadedness from my decades of feminist activism.  And, yes, yes, the whole thing rekindled memories of the abuses I’ve experienced at the hands of men.  But I’m a survivor who’s made her way through the pain, continually spiraling inward to shed more light, and then back out as I heal and write, edit and polish, and eventually, publish.  No decision about my work has been more difficult than whether or not to include a rape poem in my collection of poetry.

And so, my heart goes out to all the women who have been touched by this case.  As a white woman in a heterosexual relationship, I have the privilege of calling up a healer and being treated at my convenience.  I want everyone to find whatever it is they need to heal — be that their anger and rage, a community of love and support, a special friend or healer.  I hope you, Samantha, get the apology you request.  Perhaps this meagre response can help with that.

Thanks again for  your inspiration.


Bernadette Wagner
Author, Editor, Activist
aka thereginamom



Filed under Activism, CanLit, Poetry

Summer of Writing: Acting Out

The summer of writing continues in fits and spurts.  I continue to write about our trip to Japan, in between tending the garden and enjoying the summer.  I’m seeing how our visits to Kyoto and Hiroshima rekindled my interests in peace politics and the anti-nuclear movement.  How could they not, having been moved to tears more than once during our day at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome), a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park  and the Museum it houses, where images and artifacts from the death and destruction after the US dropped the A-Bomb are on display?  Remnants of an atrocity.  Skeletal remains. Saskatchewan uranium. Image after image.  Powerful stuff.

Sometimes, writing isn’t enough. I must also act.  As such, I give you this , the Montreal Declaration for a Nuclear-Fission-Free World, from the World Social Forum recently held in Montreal:

(excerpt) As citizens of this planet … we are collectively calling for a mobilization of civil society around the world to bring about the elimination of all nuclear weapons, to put an end to the continued mass-production of all high-level nuclear wastes by phasing out all nuclear reactors, and to bring to a halt all uranium mining worldwide.

(Montreal Declaration for a Nuclear-Fission-Free World, PDF)

It’s particularly pressing that civil society gain some movement on this issue at this time as “a new Cold War” is afoot.  Please take time to read and endorse the Montreal Declaration.  Then share it with your networks and communities.  Saskatchewan’s Premier Brad Wall will do what he can to kill it.  Please don’t let him.

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Filed under Activism, Anti-nuke

Singing, Learning and the Road to Reconciliation

Many who know me know that I’ve been part of a group of women who gather and scatter and gather and scatter, as my friend, Ruth, puts it. We gather to sing and learn, then we scatter to our parts of the continent and we come together again.  We sing love songs to Earth, songs of struggle and social justice, songs of peace and hope. Most of theses were written by Carolyn Mcdade, a spiritual feminist, activist, and poet from the USA.

This week about 120 women from more than a dozen places in Canada and the USA are gathered in Edmonton for “A Planet Singing On.” We’re singing the long road of Carolyn’s music and activism to celebrate her 80th birthday. For more than 50 years, she’s been doing this work, travelling to various communities on the continent to lead programs, prepare women for recording projects and lead larger gatherings such as the one this week.

In the summer of 1999 or 2000 — I can’t remember at the moment — I attended my first gathering with Carolyn. We met at the former Calling Lakes Centre in the Qu’Appelle Valley, near Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.  It was a powerful time for me. The singing, combined with stories of activism and fueled by feminist rituals and songs seemed to crack me open.  I cried a lot.  I almost left part way through.  My friend, Maureen, sat with me as I decided whether to leave or stay.  Well, I stayed.  The experience enlivened me in a new way and I have continued to attend gatherings near and far and have participated in two recording projects, My Heart Is Moved and Widening Embrace.  All of it has impacted my writing, my writing life, and how I define who I am and what I do.

In our gathering this morning, we honoured some of the women involved in the civil rights movement in the USA: Harriet Tubman, Soujourner Truth, Fanny Lou Harmer, and Alice Walker, to name a few. We also learned of some more recent actions of the anti-racism movement in the USA.  We sang the song those protestors sang and chanted, “Black lives matter.”

Then tonight, we honoured Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and were called to answer the call to reconcile. We heard brutal details about the residential school system, considered some statements from the TRC report and listened to stories from four women who have worked alongside First Nations people over several years.

We also sang songs that honoured the struggles, powerful songs that tell stories about individuals and social movements. To say that I was moved seems too simple an explanation of what I experienced. I cried so hard my body shook.  More than once.  But I had absolutely no desire to leave!  That a gathering of Settler women has begun to not only discern its role in the reconciliation of our relationship with First Nations people but also considered ways to be involved in the healing seems incredible to me.  It’s been such a long time coming!

Oh, yes, we have a long road to walk to get to true reconciliation. But tonight, our sacred circle began that work. I am honoured to have been part of it.  And I’m grateful to the leadership team for including this important work — on both sides of the border — in our week.

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Filed under Activism, Sacred Web