by Danny Zanbilowicz

The Comox Valley was visited last night (April 27 2017) by two of Canada’s most preeminent citizens- ex Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, and celebrated author and intellectual John Ralston Saul, who were guests at this year’s Iona Campagnola lecture series hosted by the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre.

The event consisted of Dr. Saul and Madame Clarkson sitting on comfy chairs on the stage of the Sid Williams Theatre, engaged in a conversation for about an hour and half.

Madame Clarkson set the tone from the start by pointing out that as we are living on “unceded” aboriginal territory, we are in effect all “occupiers”. Dr. Saul reinforced the idea by referring several times to our outdated, arid Judaeo-Christian European tradition of colonialism, property ownership, and constricting legalism.

Instead, Dr, Saul praised the aboriginal approach to property as the next wave, post-modern future.

Dr. Saul suggested that the foundation of Canada is built on a welcoming tradition. Compared with other colonial enterprises, the first Europeans on our part of the continent were welcomed and aided by aboriginal communities. Saul said ours is, for example, the only country in which a native form of transportation- the canoe- was for many decades the primary mode used by the colonial powers.

Similarly, the two praised the Canadian instinct for volunteerism and community involvement, and the “restorative justice” model as more “human” that the conventional legal system.

If their rosy vision of Canada and our history glossed over some of our nation’s uglier tendencies, it is at least one to aspire to.

Both speakers rose from humble origins to our society’s top ranks, through talent and effort. Both are products of the public school system, which they were eager to praise compared with private schools.

The couple used examples from their many years of work, study, and travel to highlight their points. They were lively, intelligent, and personally engaged in a remarkably wide range of significant subjects, including a heartfelt, well-informed discussion of PTSD in military personnel.

One of the most memorable moments came when Dr. Saul said that smaller centres are the most fertile cultivators of useful original ideas, compared with the major cities. This sounded like a firm encouragement for all of us to get busy changing the country, and the world, for the better.

If this couple represent some of our best and brightest, we Canadians have a lot to be proud of. Thanks to Bruce Curtis and the Justice Centre for bringing them here.