Outward Bound

Wednesday is a special day at CYM. That’s when Friends are invited to help with a local service project and then partake of the simple evening meal, with the cafeteria’s savings on the meal going to a local charity, usually the charity organizing the service project.

This year we got a chance to take part in a Battle River watershed project designed to alert the public to the need to keep hazardous waste out of storm drains and hence out of the river. The Battle River was apparently the scene of many a battle between the Blackfoot and the Cree in past centuries.

As an alternative, thanks to Canadian Friends Service Committee, Friends had the opportunity to visit Maskwacis, a 45 minute drive from Camrose. The community, with a total population of 13,000, consists of four First Nations. We visited the Samson and Montana First Nations.

We parked “downtown” within sight of the pawn shop, Lucky Dollar Food store and the bingo hall, and then entered the Samson Cree Nation Administration Building, where we exchanged introductions.

Jennifer Preston, of Canadian Friends Service Committee, gives tobacco to Chief Kurt Buffalo.

We visitors were presented with some information sheets and a gift of braided sweet grass. When you are united like a braid, you are strong, we were told.

 In contrast to the warm welcome was the grief evident in the community: a long hug given to a woman who had just lost her husband, the wake going on for a youth who had died by suicide… To strengthen their sense of identity and reconnect with their past community leaders are encouraging a revival of the Maskwacis Cree language. In the local museum, where we were reminded of the near-extermination of the buffalo in the late 1800s and consequent threat to the Plains Indian way of life, we were shown an app to teach the local language, developed with the help of our guide.

Brian Lightning demonstrates a Maskwacis Cree language learning app that is in development. One is already available for download, the other will be available soon.


Unemployment is high in the community and the Band Council is a major employer. The literature we were given soberly stated: “Death by suicide has reached epidemic proportions within the Maskwacis community. The rate of suicide for aboriginals is 2.1 times greater than the national average.” As many children are in care, the community is creating an agency to try to reintegrate some of those in foster homes.

After the museum visit, we drove to the Montana First Nation, which is accessed by an extremely rutted gravel road. The first person we saw was a young man in a black T-shirt with the words “solar training” on the back. Our guide led us up to the roof of the long building containing a gym, where we were shown six rows of solar panels. These low-maintenance panels have halved electricity costs. A federal grant was obtained for their construction and now, with a new Alberta government, the province has chipped in. This is not just an environmentally friendly job-creation project, but also a training strategy. It is the biggest First Nations solar project in Western Canada and justifiably a source of great pride to the 1000-strong Montana First Nation.

Montana Cree Nation Green Energy Solar Power Project, explained by Councilor Brad Rabbit. The project has greatly reduced the Montana Cree Administration Building’s energy bill and has employed about 20 community members, some as trainers for others wishing to do solar projects.

Our hosts had yet more visits in store for us. Once we were reunited with a carload of Friends who had gone astray on the way back from Montana First Nation, some of us indulged in tea and bannock, while others hastened back to campus – one driver picking up a speed ticket on the way – where the cafeteria were eager to serve us our simple supper and quit for the day.

High school of the Ermineskin Cree Nation.


Although not a typical service project, the visit to Maskwacis was an eye opener to us all. Several community members commented that they were rarely visited and remarked on the distorted perceptions about them circulated in the general public. A big thank you to CFSC for organizing this educational tour and to our First Nations hosts for opening up to us about their problems and their achievements.

In Friendship,

Sheila Havard

Coldstream Monthly Meeting

FGC 2017 Gathering: Invitation to CYM

Dear Canadian Yearly Meeting,

We hope that you are having wonderful annual sessions.

We are writing to invite you all to FGC Gathering, July 2-8, 2017 at Niagara University, Niagara Falls, New York. This Gathering is being planned by a number of Canadian and New York Yearly Meeting F/friends – and if you would like to be involved in the planning, please be in touch. The next in person planning meeting will be held in Toronto in late September. Please contact for more information and to express your interest. The theme for Gathering 2017 is “Ripples start where spirit moves”. There will be all of the usual gathering activities such as having wonderful workshops; interest groups; field trips; junior gathering groups; high school program; young adult activities; pre gathering retreats for business, young adults and friends of Colour; as well as the various centers, camping and cooperative cooking. 2017 will also be the 100th anniversary celebration of American Friends Service Committee and the 50th celebration of Right Sharing of World Resources. We are excited that Canadian Young Friends are planning a weekend retreat to coincide with a group of them being able to then travel together to the Gathering, and hope that adults from Canadian Yearly Meeting will feel drawn to join us as well! There are limited scholarships for first time attenders, as well as work grants for a variety of service opportunities such as leading workshops, and working with the Jr gathering or high school programs. For the best chance of receiving scholarship money, be sure to apply during early registration in April.

If you have any questions, ideas or need more information, please get in touch.

All the best,

Katrina McQuail and Steve Molhke

Co-clerks FGC Gathering 2017

Ripples Start Where Spirit Moves


CYM 2016 Midweek Reflection

Thursday… More than half way through Canadian Yearly Meeting’s annual gathering! Being on Programme Committee, I’ve been here in Camrose a full week. And yet with the bustle of organized activities, time has flown. This is without mentioning the many enriching opportunities for fellowship. One of the underestimated blessings of CYM in session is the chance for networking, which involves not just catching up with old F/friends but informally facilitating CYM committee work.

welcome banner

The weather has so far held up – sort of! The relatively cool weather (daily maximums of around 20°C)  came as a bit of a shock to this southwest Ontarian, but make walks around campus and in the neighbouring park a delight. We are frequently visited by very un-shy deer, sometimes accompanied by fawns, cougars can be heard at night in the residences, and there have been sightings of a cougar and herons along the river, the latter reminding us of the Caroline Balderston Parry’s Sunderland P. Gardner lecture theme at CYM two years ago.


There was somewhat of a setback for me the other day, however, when a major thunderstorm ripped the fly off my tent, but I have just about finished wringing out my clothes and mopping up the resulting puddles on the tent floor.


The last few years at CYM, a black thundercloud seemed to be hovering over our business sessions. This was money. While the achievement of long-term financial sustainability will require restructuring of one sort or another, we are now in a period of respite as far as our financial means are concerned. A revamped Contributions Committee is exploring what makes us a community. Time, more than money, seems to be the cloud hovering over us at this CYM. The clerk of one CYM committee, finding that committee work was taking four hours a day, stepped down early. Volunteers are becoming burnt out, while the same small number of Friends are rotating through the same committee positions.

In her Sunderland P. Gardner lecture, Maggie Knight presented us with some challenges. I quote her third “Ask”:

I ask that you discern what your life would be like if you decided to spaciously, joyously, and abundantly give some of your time to Friends…

We will hear more from Maggie at a Special Interest Group later today.

In Friendship,

Sheila Havard.

Thankfulness and Celebration Usher in CYM 2016

With a song of gratitude in his native tongue, Elder Rick Lightning welcomed us to Treaty Six Cree territory. We were gathered in Wahkohtowin Lodge at Augustana University in Camrose, Alberta. This Cree word refers to creating kinship with the natural world. So it is fitting that Elder Rick deplored the accelerating destruction of Mother Earth and the consequent violation of Aboriginal rights. The Cree who signed Treaty Six in the late 1800s understood that the treaty would allow the settlers to use the top six inches of soil, in other words plow and farm the land, whereas mineral exploitation nowadays pollutes to a much deeper depth. Pointing to the children in our midst and referring to his own grandchildren, Elder Rick stressed that it was they who would bear the brunt of environmental destruction.

Elder Rick Lightning welcomes Friends to Treaty 6 Territory. Camrose, AB.

Elder Rick Lightning welcomes Friends to Treaty 6 Territory. Camrose, AB.

When the treaties were signed, cultural misunderstandings were rife, and there was a gulf between the expectations of the two parties to these legal documents. The new arrivals understood the Indians to have many gods as they appeared to be worshiping rocks, trees and the like, whereas they were actually giving thanks to one deity, the Creator.

Briefly, and without bitterness, Elder Rick reminded us of past injustices inflicted on the Cree and on Aboriginal peoples in general. Both his parents went through residential school. Under the Indian Act, native languages and ceremonies were suppressed, depriving the Indian peoples of their own culture. But what touched me most in his welcoming address was that he did not dwell on this painful past. “Let it go,” he said. “Don’t hang on to it.” In other words, his message was that relationship building in the here and now is what counts.

This theme of moving forward by relationship building was continued on Monday at a Special Interest Group showing of the movie Elder in the Making: Treaty Seven. This road trip documentary of reconciliation, set in stunningly beautiful Alberta landscapes, traces the history of the area from an Aboriginal perspective and centres on a Blackfoot whose ancestors lived there for thousands of years and who feels disconnected from the place he calls home. It is a profoundly moving film.

In friendship,

Sheila Havard.

2016 Sunderland P. Gardner lecturer Maggie Knight urges transformation through Continuing Revelation

On the evening of August 7, 2016, Maggie Knight presented the annual Sunderland P Gardner lecture to Canadian Yearly Meeting, held this year at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose, on Treaty 6 territory. The lecture was filmed and will be made available in coming weeks.


Maggie Knight


Entitled Continuing Revelation: Quaking with Grace and Joy in Modern Times, Maggie spoke about transforming ourselves, transforming the Religious Society of Friends, and transforming our world.

Speaking to assembled Friends, she said,
“And so, what do we mean when we talk about ‘continuing revelation’? It is the commitment to ongoing discernment, to the belief that the divine will continue to unfold its wisdom to us if we listen, that our faith is an ongoing practice and journey. It is the belief that our faith continues to evolve, rather than stemming from a static religious text. It allows us to embrace and lead social change in our time, beyond what Fox and Penn and Fell could have imagined. This belief in continuing revelation is the reason I’m a Quaker.” 

Here’s how the speedy fingers of Canadian Friends Service Committee’s Matt Legge and Publications and Communications Committee Clerk Chris Hitchcock livetweeted the evening.

In Part I: Transforming Ourselves, Maggie shared some of her experiences with workaholism, activist burnout, and ways to foster rest, space, and healthy boundaries in our lives. Speaking about the importance of acting through joy and abundance, she offered three queries:

  1. What is enough?
  2. When do I most love myself? When am I in best balance with myself?
  3. How am I staying open to Spirit?

In Part II: Transforming our Religious Society of Friends, Maggie spoke about the ongoing nature of our evolution as a community, saying “the critical discernment is the wisdom to know the difference between the times we truly need more discernment, and when we are simply resisting the discomfort of change, resisting walking into the continuing revelation laid out before us.”

She identified three themes for Friends to work on:

  1. Leaning into the discomfort: talking about money and embracing abundance
  2. Journeying through conflict
  3. Healthy boundaries and deeper discernment: above all, nurturing our blessed community

Emphasizing the importance of building a loving community through the creation of strong relationships between individual Friends, she said, “There are a million little kindnesses that add up to a beautiful community. We are all responsible for the inward health of our Meetings, just as we are all responsible for living our leadings outwardly.”

Pendle Hill

Pendle Hill


In Part III: Transforming our World, Maggie offered six ideas on what Quakers have to offer an increasingly secular world:
  1. The cultivation of a practice of collective silence and contemplation in an age of distraction.
  2. A faith grounded in strong and compelling testimonies that offer up ways to heal the world.
  3. A beloved community in a time of growing social isolation and a fraying social safety net.
  4. A spiritual practice based in discernment, in questions, rather than dogma – critical for many experiencing great existential angst and fear for the future.
  5. Inter-faith work that transcends the Clash of Civilizations narrative.
  6. A long tradition of speaking truth to power, and engaging in faith-based advocacy. The integrity to show up for our own work and a spiritual practice to keep at it.
She spoke about the importance of sharing our Light in the world through compelling personal stories.
Halifax 2013. Picture by Tori Ball.

Halifax 2013. Picture by Tori Ball.

Finally, Maggie closed with three asks for all Friends:
  1. Practice explaining your faith and inviting others into it. What is the Light that you delight in letting shine? What are you quietly, humbly proud of?
  2. Find your way to contribute to community-building in your Meeting, to help your community transcend and Quaker crankiness, get better at conflict and money, and turn towards each other’s bids for connection.
  3. And finally, discern what your life would be like if you decided to spaciously, joyously, abundantly gift some of your time to Friends. What Quaker service would you let go? What else in your life would you like to let go? What new service would be led to undertake?

Maggie’s slides are available here.

Maggie grew up on unceded Coast Salish territory in Victoria, BC. She’s a member of Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting and has sojourned with Meetings in Montreal, Halifax, and Vancouver. A third generation Quaker of British extraction, she became involved with Friends after attending Camp NeeKauNis in her early teens. She has worked on restorative justice and Indigenous rights with Canadian Friends Service Committee and recently served as Clerk of Canadian Young Friends Yearly Meeting and the CYM Determining Priorities and Envisioning Change Working Group.

A social and climate justice activist since her teens, Maggie studied Environment and Economics at McGill University and served as President of McGill’s undergraduate student union during the 2011-2012 Quebec student strike. She was progressive political non-profit Leadnow.ca‘s first Managing Director, building a distributed national campaigning organization while navigating the joys of 4 time zones and 17-staff-person calls via Google Hangouts. Now 27, she works as the BC Civil Liberties Association‘s new Operations Manager.

In 2015, she married her long-time partner Nat Egan-Pimblett (now Nat Knight) under the care of Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting. They live in Vancouver with their very talkative cat.