Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Repatriation Ceremony

When a fallen soldier returns home...
After spending more than a decade living away from Ontario, living in BC, I decided to move my family back home - home for me anyways. We settled in the Quinte area and I slowly re-familiarized myself with the culture here. Soon after the move we planned a trip to Toronto. We headed West on the 401, and just after passing Trenton, we came to a bridge draped in a Canadian flag. It was not Canada day. The bridge was full of people wearing red. There was a fire truck there with lights swirling, cars were honking, people were waving and I was confused and proud at the same time. The next bridge and every bridge thereafter was the same; police cars, emergency vehicles, more fire trucks at every bridge and overpass. More honking- more people- more pride. It was quite moving.

It was only afterwards that I learned I had been following a repatriation motorcade. The year was 2002. Repatriation ceremonies are a part of the culture here that is not witnessed in many parts of this vast country. I was far removed from it living in BC. I wanted to find out more about this ceremony, so I made a visit to CFB Trenton to speak with Jaimie Corriveau and Wendy Synnott. Jaimie is originally from NFL and has been with the military for the past three years. When I asked Wendy where she was from, her response was “Canada”. Her father was in the military, her husband has retired from the military and her oldest daughter, Erica, is currently serving overseas. She states that the Canadian military is voluntary– they choose to join knowing they may go overseas. They know it is an important role for the general good, to respect and to protect our lifestyle. And part of that volunteer involvement may be a repatriation ceremony.

It all starts in Trenton. It starts with the local paper and a solemn story about a fallen soldier, or civilian, and a date for the upcoming repatriation. The city readies itself. Dignitaries such as the Defence Minister, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Govenor General and so on, arrive in Trenton on those formal days to welcome home the brave Canadians whom have given their lives in the name of peace. What other small town can compare the high profile visitors it receives. This privilege, however, has its price. On the day of the repatriation, the grey military air bus arrives at CFB 8 Wing and the traditional, structured ceremony is conducted on the tarmac at CFB Trenton where for the first time the family receives their family member home. The ceremony is a very private and an emotional one; the “needs of the family” are considered foremost, Jaimie expresses. The flag draped caskets are unloaded and lade into their respective hearse. With this, the family follows, and the journey to the coroner’s office in Toronto begins. The stretch of road from CFB Trenton to Toronto along the 170km of highway 401 has become known as “the highway of heroes” where thousands flock to the bridges and overpasses taking part in this ceremonial procession.

Hundreds of Trentonians have created their own “grassroots” structured ceremony, showing “dignity and respect”, remarks Wendy. They have assumed a sense of ownership for each soldier; “they are all our sons and daughters”. On the day of the repatriation they religiously take up their post at the fence line or along the sidewalks where the motorcade proceeds. Their station is the same each time, much like church on Sunday, “people pick their pews” says Jaimie. A fire truck rests at one end of CFB, its flashing lights signal the beginning of the motorcade. Amidst the civilians lining the fences at CFB are soldiers in fatigue and retired military personnel- civilians and military alike support one another through this emotional observance. With honour and pride they attend, most feeling a duty to do so. Whether along the fence; lining the sidewalks or on a bridge, there they wait. They wait through the weather, through rain, freezing temperatures, they wait “because it matters, because every loss is a personal loss.” says Wendy. And the people of Trenton know this military loss. Over 150 casualties have made their way through this small town since 2002, and each time “Trenton stops, hats come off, and you can hear a pin drop” as the motorcade makes its way slowly through the town, says Jaimie. This statement gave me chills as I have witnessed it, and it is nothing less than chilling.

The military recognizes the “whole community mourns every loss”; there is comfort and support in attending the ceremonies. Dignitaries acknowledge the support of those at the fence and have on occasion approached and thanked them for coming. A reception is now offered to the mourners after the motorcade has left the city. The military recognizes the supporters locally, and after being involved in such an emotional event, Jaimie explains that this reception offers people a chance to “exhale”. “Whether related or not, if you are military you are a part of this big family” says Wendy.

One can only wonder the impact this has on this already repressed town. When asked this question, Wendy responded “it is hard on the members of this community”, and Jaimie followed with the military response, “they must cool in order to cope” These people bear the responsibility of all Canadians whom do not have the same opportunity to show their physical support to the family. It should be the duty of all Canadians to recognize that Trenton represents.

Jaimie Corriveau is the Special Events Coordinator with the Military Family Resource Centre.

Wendy Synnott is with Volunteer Services with the Military Family Resource Centre.

Check out the beautiful fall issue of County and Quinte Living magazine at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Stirling Festival Theatre

This summer, as the well known local poet Al Purdy would encourage, head to the country north of Belleville. In particular, head to the village of Stirling. As you travel through the main street, enjoy the local creamery, the quaint shops and the family run restaurants. This village has the familiar and comfortable feel of a small, busy well preserved town. At the heart of this lovely little village is a gem, a local source of pride, a must to visit, the Stirling Festival Theatre.

As you approach you will notice the old fa├žade of the theatre which is a reminder of times past. This historic edifice built in 1927 hums with history, a rich history, a varied history. The list of prior tenants includes a movie theatre, a police station, the public works office and even a jail! Nowadays it houses comparable characters – actors (the dressing rooms are the old jail cells), directors, volunteers and the like; a charming transition.

The stone entrance has the traditional theatre face, the French glass doors add to the glamour of the experience, and the wide hallway draws you in. As you step inside, know that you are in good company. Over 45,000 people attend the Stirling Festival Theatre every year, each looking forward to the rich experience the patrons have come to expect from this theatre.

Once inside, you ascend the wide hallway getting a glimpse and a synopsis of the performers for the evening by way of a wall of fame. At the end of the hall you will find the wonderful auditorium and you will be greeted with one of the many friendly faces you will see on your visit. The wide range of live entertainment means there is something for everyone of every age. Whether you enjoy plays, musicals or concerts there is something in the lineup for you.

Get yourself a ticket. Find yourself a seat. The layout of this theatre assures that you will enjoy a great view of the stage, wherever you decide to sit. Enjoy.
During the intermission of your show, be sure to head up to the Burrell Hall. This room has been actively housing community social activities since its inception in the late 20’s. The atmosphere is rich and the walls whisper of socials long-ago.
It is hard to believe, but at one point in time this building so full of local history was once headed for the wrecking ball. Thanks to a crew of dedicated Stirling residents, it was saved.

2010 is proving to be an exciting and new year for the Stirling Festival Theatre. After thirteen successful seasons, acclaimed artistic director Caroline Smith moved in a new direction with her work, and Claudia Staines has been brought in to resume the devoted efforts, adding new energy to an already rich, solid foundation. Claudia shares her experience and passion for quality theatre while staying true to the same commitments of the previous director. Claudia notes that this theatre “has always been blessed with a passionate and dedicated audience” and she intends to meet the excellent standards the patrons have come to expect from their theatre.

All this being on a smaller scale, this experience, this theatre, is truly remarkable. If there is one stop you need to add to your summer hit list, it is the Stirling Festival Theatre.

You can find this article in the Summer 2010 edition of County and Quinte Living Magazine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Emily Schultz

Dear Emily,

A mishmash of The Smiths and Eminem; I find you sexy, cheeky, a quirky little thing. Of the writers in attendance, you appear to be the youngest (I think), sitting at an honourable table amidst Lorna Crozier, Gil Anderson, Kim Echlin, Jeanette Lynes…to name a few – there you sit sporting a freakin' crazy ass tattoo on your right arm – your favourite lines of a Patrick Lane poem – ensconced in your sacred skin – swaddled about your forearm…my mind swirls about thinking of Lorna there - the star - there - Patrick, not there, but present...thanks to you.

You emerge from the crowd of well endorsed writers to read about 'things to do in heaven if you're bored' because Heaven Is Small – over and over we are pounded with the abused Harlequin known word “whilst”…and whilst, and whilst again…

Lorna pictured enjoying Emily, as much as the rest of us did...

As observed by myself,
Well done,
Janet Jarrell

Saturday, February 6, 2010



A directed stillness

Simple experience

Read in intervals of silent reflection

Intensely there


With equal intensity

not there

Reflections from Meditations on Silence by Sister Wendy Beckett

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Without Further Ado I present H.D.


Am I blind alas,
am I blind
I too have followed
her path,
I too have bent at her feet,
I too have wakened to pluck
amaranth in the straight shaft,
amaranth purple in the cup,
scorched at the edge to white.

Am I blind?
am I the less ready for her sacrifice?
am I less eager to give
what she asks,
she the shameless and radiant?

Am I quite lost,
I towering above you and her glance,
walking with swifter pace,
with clearer sight,
with intensity
beside which you two
are as spent ash?

Nay I give back to my goddess the gift
she tendered me in a moment
of great bounty.
I return it. I lay it again
on the white slab of her house,
the beauty she cast out
one moment, careless.

Nor do I cry out:

"why did I stoop?
why did I turn aside
one moment from the rocks
marking the sea path?
Andromeda, shameless and radiant,
have pity, turn, answer us."

Ah no - though I stumble toward
her altar-step,
though my flesh is scorched and rent,
shattered, cut apart,
and slashed open;
though my heels press my own wet life
black, dark to purple,
on the smooth rose-streaked
threshold of her pavement.

Hilda Doolittle