At the height of the glorious colours of a Canadian autumn, October 24-26, 2014, a group of Canadian Courage & Renewal facilitators and friends gathered near Toronto, on the traditional lands of the Mississauga Anishinaabe people, on the banks of the Credit River, for the playfully named first “Camp Courage Canada.”
We began by each introducing ourselves with a Canadian Third Thing (a poem, a song, a piece of art, a story) that connected to our sense of place, our sense of identity in the Canadian context and our connection to Courage & Renewal work. It was a lush interweaving that celebrated our diversity, and stitched us together across our wide geography.
We came from six of our ten provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Our circle included five men and ten women, people from the LGBTQ community, educators, clergy, youth workers, folks from the non-profit sector, and independent consultants. We are artists, dancers, musicians (guitar, ukulele and mandolin), dreamers and planners.
Many of us in the circle have heartfelt engagement with Aboriginal people and communities in Canada, and yet, there are no First Nations people in our circle. This becomes a question for us, as we imagine circles that honour, include and welcome all. Also, we don’t yet have facilitators for whom French is their mother-tongue, which is unfortunate in a country that is officially bilingual. We also hope to have facilitators someday in Quebec and New Brunswick with the capacity to facilitate en français.
We were gathering just days after an incident of horror in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, where a gunman shot an honour guard at a War Memorial and then entered the Parliament Buildings and shot several people, before being shot himself. Recalling this horrible incident in circle gave us cause to reflect on our sense of identity as a nation of peace that has recently struggled with our growing role as participant in wars and injustice.
We held the paradox of calls to courage and calls to peace—the sense of a graphic loss of innocence and a need to maintain a hopeful vision of generosity, care and compassion. It was an important time to be together as Canadians practicing Courage & Renewal.
In the retreat, we named the importance of discussing and welcoming less visible diversity, addressing issues of class, disability and mental health, as well as the full expression of human spirituality, being clear that no language of the spirit has privilege. As Canadians we still have a way to go as we seek to live into the sense of wonder and promise that comes when we practice radical hospitality and honour a spirit of welcome in Circles of Trust.
Gathering in a Canadian forum, we enjoyed many conversations about expressions of courage and people of integrity from our own national story: Louis Riel, Nellie McClung, Elijah Harper, Viola Desmond, Chief Dan George.
Many facilitators brought music from Canadian artists: music by Harry Manx, The Wailin’ Jennys, Sarah Harmer, Loreena McKennit, Connie Kaldor, Gordon Lightfoot, Raffi, The Canadian Brass, and Hey Rosetta, to name but a few. (Go on a Google search, if you want to expand your awareness of Canadian singer-songwriters!)
The video below is from a Manitoba Group called The Wailin’ Jennys, a song about voice and agency, the power of ‘one’ and the transformative power of ‘becoming one’! Enjoy.
We ended our retreat standing joyfully in the wind on the cliff above the Credit River, celebrating our unity and our uniqueness in a spontaneous kicking and throwing of orange, brown, red and yellow fall leaves, blessed by letting loose and reclaiming our Canadian voice.
Dianne Baker is Courage & Renewal facilitator and a counseling therapist and consultant in Manitoba, Canada. In her agency work as a therapist for adults with disabilities, connecting individuals with the wisdom of their inner teacher is rich and enlivening work. Dianne is excited about helping the Courage network grow in Canada. Touching and honouring the earth as a spiritual discipline, she is a gardener, canoeist and scuba diver.