building new castles every day

Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

“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.

I have a dream

In Doings, Feelings on January 12, 2014 at 9:05 AM

with title and CC and Fircom

I have a dream.

To launch the Canadian equivalent of StoryCorps, an independent nonprofit who provides people of all backgrounds and beliefs the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives.

StoryCorps impacted me years ago. I was living alone in a bachelor suite at the top of a house in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver. Working several jobs out of university. Recently ended long-term relationship. Parents and sisters a day’s travel away. Grandparents a $600+ flight away.

It was a lonely time.

But when a Facebook friend recommended the animated short of Danny & Annie, a seed of possibility was planted. (Watch it yourself, and you’ll feel love, too.)

I should also mention The Hole. It was gaining prominence in my life. I didn’t feel it as a child. But as an adult — away from family, no roots in a community, no elder keeping me in check — I felt it deeply.

That animated short filled The Hole. Just a bit, but enough to inspire me. To connect with my family through story.

I began committing to visits in Alberta and Ontario, to my grandparents and pseudo grandparents. I brought along questions and a voice recorder. I asked to look at photographs and recipes. We sat together in silence sometimes. But it was a fulfilling silence. No fear of rejection or miles of country between us, just generations of experience and thoughts and love.

These stories cost me money and time. But filling The Hole was worth every cent and second.

Jump ahead a few years, and I’m using my passion project, Community Catalysts, as a vehicle to begin my dream. But I’m not the only one wanting a connection through auditory experience. My pals at Fircom have committed to hosting up to 50 people for a weekend, February 14-16, so we can all record, share and preserve the songs, sounds and stories of our lives.

Just like StoryCorps. Except, in lieu of a mobile ‘tin can’ recording studio, we’ll have 120 acres of coastal forest and a 90-year restored community hall. Plus healthy meals, modern shared accommodation, and three days of fun.

If you’ve got a Hole of your own, and you’re inspired to fill it with stories or sounds or songs, and you’d like to do it with equally curious and committed folk, please consider registering for the retreat. Find out more here:

And thanks for listening.

a video to take example from

In I like on September 27, 2011 at 9:53 AM


Not only is City Harvest an amazing organization (and does Vancouver have an equivalent?), but Hayden 5 has produced a beautiful short video to showcase their efforts.