Volunteers from Drumheller, Pê Sâkâstêw, Bowden Annex, and Bowden Institution enjoyed a pot luck in June to commemorate the end of another great year. Special thanks to BCFI volunteer, Lorna Watkinson Zimmer, for sharing these terrific photos with us.
A special report from BCFI volunteer Candice Archer
Today I attended a community ceremony for Indigenous People's Day at Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village, where Cheryl Redfern is one of the book club facilitators.
BCFI can be enriching not only for the inmates we read and talk with, but amongst its volunteers. The experiences we share from volunteering in the prison book clubs are deeply meaningful and rewarding to us, and through this we connect with each other, and sometimes this connection develops into a wonderful friendship.
Cheryl and I met at a BCFI volunteer gathering not so long ago, and since then we have had several great conversations, a few moments of serendipity, and shared some profoundly moving experiences, such as the ceremony we were welcomed into today at Kwìkwèxwelhp. We see the good work that is being done there, the healing taking place, and we see what is possible when people have the right resources, support and community to turn their lives around.
I cannot articulate enough praise for Kwìkwèxwelhp, and that seems to be a sentiment shared by the staff, the residents, other volunteers, and the Sts'ailes (Chehailis) First Nations, on whose land it resides. I can only hope to see more facilities like this become available to those who need them.
I'm very grateful to have shared such an important and meaningful day with a dear friend and fellow BCFI volunteer.
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!
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.
Beaver Creek Minimum reports in with the below report written by BCFI volunteer Bruce McWhinnie. Thanks for sharing with us, Bruce!
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: