building new castles every day

Posts Tagged ‘Canadians’

“The Peel” artist expedition highlights shifting Canadian values

In Learnings on October 20, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Photo: Joel Luet

Calder Cheverie isn’t one to be pigeon-holed. Neither is is his latest project.

The 27-year old Ontario-born Vancouverite with a background in summer camp and outdoor education is also a wilderness guide, photographer and filmmaker. Ask him what he identifies with most, and he’ll give you the 30,000-foot view.

“I just want to inspire reflection and self worth in people. Creating experiences in nature, and capturing stories about their experiences, is the way I know how to empower them.”

Fortunately for six Canadian artists, he’s done just that with the The Peel Project. Calder and producer, Tony Wallace, led a crew of 12 this past September, in canoes full of camping gear and film equipment, from Whitehorse to Northern Yukon and down the Peel River to experience one of the last intact watersheds in Canada. And they did it while 71% of the watershed is potentially threatened by development, should the Yukon Supreme Court rule in favour of the Territorial government later this month.


Photo: Anthony Wallace

But as Calder makes clear (through all the grant applications, crowd-funding campaigns and personal savings withdrawals), the project is not a direct advocacy campaign for the Peel watershed, just like the development of the watershed itself is not a regional dispute. According to Calder, this is an issue of national values.

“If an incredible amount of our vast wilderness is slated for development, does the story we tell about ourselves as Canadians change?”


Photo: Joel Luet

Hence the six artists from urban Canada — a musician from Toronto, a writer from Vancouver, a visual performer from Calgary, a glass welder from Toronto, a photographer from Toronto and an illustrator from Calgary — were provided paddle training, water-tight supplies and enough guidance to safely experience “wilderness” to produce their own expression about the impact of political-economic decisions in “the north” on the romantic narrative of “the south”.

Calder is the first to admit that artist expeditions aren’t new. Since before Canada’s birth as a country, artists have reflected on our national worth, often articulating values that the average Canadian takes for granted — our untouched wilderness being just one.

But unlike historical artist expeditions that parachuted in, “captured art” and left without return, The Peel Project will screen the doc and show the art exhibit in the Yukon communities that hosted them and shared their lives so generously.

“The Peel Project invests,” says Calder. “Yes, we will share it with communities across the country. That’s part of our objective. But the other vital part is to maintain lasting connections, and we’ll do that by sharing the project in the communities where we were first accepted, and by giving of ourselves.”


Photo: Joel Luet

Now with the outcome of the Peel Watershed court case poised to ripple across the country, Calder is back in Vancouver editing the doc and reflecting on the 10 days he and Tony spent after the trip interviewing local First Nations and conservation advocates in the Yukon.

“If only loosely, The Peel Project contributes to a fight that our friends and partners in the North feel very passionately about. The main intention is to engage in a conversation about national collective values with Canadians—through film, art and science. It’s not about tearing apart our identity. It’s about looking at how our values are shifting, and recognizing that decisions made on a provincial, territorial and national scale do impact the character of the nation as a whole.”

So which way does he think the Supreme Court ruling will go?

“I have a feeling the Supreme Court ruling will end in a forced compromise between the government’s proposed Land Use Plan and the 2011 recommended plan that resulted from the territorial inquiry and was agreed upon by First Nations.”

And, when asked if that will be good or bad, his response is again from the top:

“That’s for Canadians, both in the north and in the south, to decide.”

— — —

In addition to The Peel Project, Calder Cheverie is the founder of Our Nature Foundation and co-founder of the Vancouver Outdoor School. Contact Calder at to book a screening of the film and exhibit of the art show or invite Calder to speak at your event. More information:


Calder with partner and The Peel’s lead scientist, Emma Hodgson.

eh, Canada, I think I love you

In Makings, Thinkings on July 1, 2010 at 11:28 AM

So I’ve been doing my anti-rain dance today. My scissors are crossed too, and I’ve got my glue stick ready to adhere the sun to the Vancouver sky. Why? It’s Canada’s 143rd birthday and we want to party!

But as great as nice weather would be, it’s the company I’m looking forward to. It takes great people to make great ideas happen and I’m excited to have two handfuls of dear friends gung-ho for a park potluck and minor league baseball game — and fireworks — on this July 1 holiday.

If I could, though, I would teleport all my Canadian friends to Queen Elizabeth Park this afternoon. That’s the trouble with our country: it’s just so darn wide. But it’s a bittersweet kinda thing because when we do cross the long distances to finally see each other, it makes the meeting so worthwhile, so genuinely satisfying, so heartwarming to know that time and space can’t fade some friendships.

This is exactly how I felt when I finally met up with Jess and Jon last weekend after two years! Though we’ve only been the Straight of Georgia away from each other, life took our courses far and wide — her to law school, marriage and international wheelchair basketball, and me, well, you know that story. We had a great evening together, dining on Glo‘s patio and filling in the gaps. If growing up means reconnecting with great people, I’ll be ok with this aging business.

Lobster anyone?

And then there’s my dearest Caroline and Rob who are currently en route heading west across the country. After finishing university and enjoying five years on the East Coast, my pen pal and her partner are at last making their big move from Halifax to Victoria. I last saw C&R in December, spending a restful and reflective week in their Halifax home. They were conduits to a turning point (literally and figuratively) in my post-university turmoil and I cannot articulate how happy I am that these two wonderful people will be relocating back to BC.  Maybe we can finally get that book club we’ve been talking about up and running at last!

Bundled for the Nova Scotian winter and chatting up a storm.

Ah, and Ashley, my former soccer teammate who is now my teammate in “life uncertainty”. Thanks to BC Ferries, we were able to play soccer together again, watch some World Cup, eat pancakes at her parents’ retirement condo on the Gorge, and hash out our ideas for the future. With an urge to do something different, she will head to Shanghai in August to teach English. I think I will just have to go visit her again there.

There are so many more people I’d like to bring together. I find myself reflecting on my trip across the country last winter and grateful I kept a travel blog along the way. If there’s one thing I don’t regret doing ever, it’s taking the time to document.

Anyway, now that it’s a new month, it’s time to turn the calendar page. Or rather, re-draw the calendar!

Out with the old...

...and in with the new!

And here’s a flashback I Stumbled upon of our national goofy uncle.  Alrighty then.