BCFI in the Community

BCFI had a very successful evening on April 9th at Glenview Presbyterian Church in Toronto when BCFI volunteer, Eric Friesen, joined the Canadian Federation of University Women, North Toronto Chapter, at their monthly meeting. Well over a hundred attended the event.  Eric described the evening as “a very sympathetic, interested group of women whose applause was long and sustained.”

BCFI thanks Eric Friesen for his contribution to this event!

Eric with member Sylvia Dixon after the talk.

Eric with member Sylvia Dixon after the talk.

Carol Visits The Happy Bookers Club (yes that the right name)!

In early May Carol visited The Happy Bookers Club

About 14 women have been gathering in one another’s homes for well over a decade to talk books. Many of them are long time friends, but their interest in  book clubs in prisons sparked the invitation. The “how does it work?” question was of paramount interest, but also issues of criminal justice and corrections came up as well.

Two hours later they moved on to discussing their lives as parents, professionals, and of course the books they love to read. Before Carol left, they gave her a very generous gift of money, and their best wishes.

Below is a photo of a few of the members of The Happy Bookers Club.

20190606-some Happy Bookers with Marg.jpg

Book Review: Brother

Beaver Creek Minimum reports in with the below report written by BCFI volunteer Bruce McWhinnie. Thanks for sharing with us, Bruce!

Brother.jpg

There were 14 members present at the book club this month. As is normal at this time of year, some regular members were away to work in the day-work release program. The book was extremely well received by the men and we had an absolutely fantastic discussion with them, one of the best this year. Everyone would recommend this book to Book Clubs for Inmates at other correctional institutions. Once again, we asked the men to come to our meeting having formulated a question beforehand and the following represents some of them.

1. Shooting of an unarmed person by the police, is this not murder?

2. Does the book’s feeling of nostalgia suit the story’s title?

3. Systemic racism was prevalent in the lives of Michael and Francis. How did Chariandy work this into his book and is it different today than what was portrayed in the 1970s?

4. Discuss the role of music in ‘Brother’. Does it offer escape or a sense of belonging?

5. Does telling this story empower anyone?

6. Was Francis gay or really close to Jelly?

7. Midway through, the mother enters the healing process when she talks to Aishe’s friends about her life, showing pictures and listening to music. How important do you think these outlets are to personal grieving?

8. Should he have won the DJ contest and were the police racist who appeared after the fight?

The narration which went combined moving back and forth in time was welcomed by members. They were a little disappointed when they learned that the book was fictional rather than a true story based on the author’s experiences.

A few of the men had either grown up in Scarborough or were aware of the housing developments that were portrayed in the book. An interesting point of view was shared by one of these men. He found less racism in the Scarborough environment with its multicultural mix than he did when he lived in a less culturally diverse community outside of Toronto. His definition was more of feeling out of place and different than it was overt racism. This led to an interesting discussion about how the police might react to the same set of circumstances today. Most felt that the police would be more cautious in their behaviour today due to training and the fact that everyone has a camera on their cell phone which makes them more accountable for any unacceptable behaviour.

While preparing for this book, we found a discussion guide which had been prepared by the Amnesty International book club which included a review by Lawrence Hill. Some of his comments were shared with the men and it was included as an attachment to the report as a resource for other groups. You can find the review here:

http://www.amnestybookclub.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/The_Illegal_Lawrence_Hill_discussion-guide_Amnesty_Book_Club.pdf

Author Joanie McEwen visits Mission Medium and Minimum on May 4th

On May 4th, author of  Innocence on Trail , Joanie McEwen, visited both Mission Medium and Mission Minimum book clubs. Special thanks to Joanie, as well as to Mission volunteer Cathy Carnrite for coordinating these visits.  Below is her letter to Cathy Carnrite and Carol Finlay.     What an absolutely amazing time I had today! I can’t remember the last time I spent four more engaging hours.   The book club attendees were fabulous: the questions, commentary--and insights!--so compelling.   I actually felt, at the end, that perhaps I was making the smallest of differences in at least some of their lives. Which is, as both of you know, all the thanks that we need.  Cathy, so good to meet you. Our hours together in the car and over lunch flew by. We are truly kindred spirits, in so many ways.   I am so respectful of the fact that you have worked tirelessly with these book clubs for so long. Wow! Thank you for the long hours you have put in. The guys are obviously so fond of you and appreciative of your efforts.  Carol, Once again, I can’t say enough about the impact you are having on these people. We talked a lot today about how society forgets people post-conviction and pre-parole. So sad, because of course so very much happens behind “the walls.” Kudos to you for all that you do.  It is with a full heart that I thank you both.  Best, Joanie

On May 4th, author of Innocence on Trail, Joanie McEwen, visited both Mission Medium and Mission Minimum book clubs. Special thanks to Joanie, as well as to Mission volunteer Cathy Carnrite for coordinating these visits.

Below is her letter to Cathy Carnrite and Carol Finlay.

What an absolutely amazing time I had today! I can’t remember the last time I spent four more engaging hours.

The book club attendees were fabulous: the questions, commentary--and insights!--so compelling.

I actually felt, at the end, that perhaps I was making the smallest of differences in at least some of their lives. Which is, as both of you know, all the thanks that we need.

Cathy, so good to meet you. Our hours together in the car and over lunch flew by. We are truly kindred spirits, in so many ways.

I am so respectful of the fact that you have worked tirelessly with these book clubs for so long. Wow! Thank you for the long hours you have put in. The guys are obviously so fond of you and appreciative of your efforts.

Carol, Once again, I can’t say enough about the impact you are having on these people. We talked a lot today about how society forgets people post-conviction and pre-parole. So sad, because of course so very much happens behind “the walls.” Kudos to you for all that you do.

It is with a full heart that I thank you both.

Best, Joanie