one week postpartum. reflections on midwifery care.

I gave birth to my third child a week ago today. She is now nestled in the warmth of my bed, our postpartum cocoon, wrapped in woolen things I knit to meditatively manage anxiety when she was in utero. Seeing her plump face, her rounding cheeks, body all milky tired, in these garments makes me breathe out all the held in breaths, the tears too, of the last many months.

This babe is a rainbow baby, a child born after pregnancy loss. And as much as I thought I could shake the fear of losing this child too after the first 12 weeks, and then maybe after 20 weeks, then maybe after the first ultrasound.. No..? Then maybe after the second ultrasound. Or maybe it’s a sign, that since there’s nothing wrong, that there must be something very wrong, something that won’t be detected until later. But maybe the anxieties will quieten when this babe is term, maybe then.

They didn’t.


I gave birth at the end of a long snowy night that stretched on into day, in a birthing centre, with my partner, a doula friend, and surrounded by women. When I came to some, after my baby had made her earthside arrival, after some eight hours or so of labouring, and as I was being helped into bed, with my slippery wet newborn, I noticed all of the women. A roomful of calm, caring women. Women who exuded confidence and care. Women who had trusted in my body’s ability to give birth (even and especially when I didn’t) and who supported and respected my process and its rhythms. There were the women who were tasked with caring for me, making sure the placenta came in its entirety, making sure I got the stitches I needed, the pain killers, the nourishment, the care. And the ones tasked with caring for my baby, making sure she sounded and looked like the transition to breathing on her own and being on the outside was going okay, keeping her with her placenta and its pulsating umbilical cord, wrapped in warmth and naked with me. Mostly these women were quiet, they moved gently and with purpose. And their priority, once they knew we were both well, was to leave us to get acquainted.


Few things give me as much hope, and bring tears to my eyes as readily, as midwifery care.

Thinking of the generations of women who fought for it. Who passed on knowledge about birth, about feeding and caring for infants, about abortion and the range of reproductive care that humans with uteruses may need. The quality and seamlessness of care, and the profound humanity of the care undoes me. For anyone with sexual trauma in their histories, midwifery care, with its deep respect for the birthing person’s body sovereignty, can be such a powerful, empowering reset. It is a gift. I can think of nothing more anti-capitalist, more feminist, more revolutionary than midwifery care—to be cared for and supported by midwives, midwifery students, doulas, birth attendants in this most vulnerable yet raw and powerful time.   

And I can’t think of a better way to birth a girl child, for her journey to begin with that affirming, revolutionary respect for women’s strength and bodies.



Keeping mum about the pregnancy throughout, save for a few kindred souls, made it lonelier, no doubt. And pandemic lonelier at that. But at least it makes this current outpouring of words and cards, parcels and books, dropped off foodstuffs and offers of help, so so devastatingly heartwarming. Merci friends.

on pregnancy, sex and the patriarchy.

I’ve been private about the news of this pregnancy for a long time. In part because I’ve found it challenging to be pregnant after pregnancy loss (and my desire to publicly grieve again is fairly low) and because I’ve found there are a few life transitions that people are still surprisingly nosy and tactless about, pregnancy being one of them.

But at 6 months pregnant, people now bring up my growing uterus without hesitation so here goes.

I haven’t found the words to convey how sad it makes me that the first question people ask, without fail, is “Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl?,” with the occasional “Do you know what you’re having?” What I appreciate about this variation is that, if I’m quick enough on my toes that day, I can answer “a human baby” and proceed to talk about how I’m still not A+ comfortable taking care of baby calves or piglets yet, but I am working on it. “Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl?” puts me in the much disliked position of answering something along the lines of “I’m completely indifferent. A healthy baby is what I’m hoping for.” But I’m not indifferent. I can’t wait to meet this wee human who’s been break dancing in my uterus for months now. I’m not indifferent about any of the characteristics of this child. Will they have a full head of dark hair like the others did? Will they make those sweet baby mammal sounds when they’re sleeping? Will they very obviously recognize the lullabies I’ve been singing every other night when I do bedtime with the (big) kids? Indifference just isn’t a part of this equation. But boy does it ever sadden me the extent to which people make such far reaching assumptions about the people their children will be, the relationships they’ll have with them, the lives they’ll lead together based on whether or not we can spot penises during ultrasounds. I find it devastating.

(And listen, I appreciate that folks mean no harm. That these are pleasantries for the most part, that folks don’t always know what to say, but the fact that it is THE question asked, by everyone, almost unequivocally–young and old, men and women—is both odd and problematic. Also odd and problematic: the number of people who feel comfortable asking if this pregnancy is an accident/surprise.)   

I studied sociology and gender studies and my world view is deeply shaped by these disciplines I love. I hear comments about how boys are easier, or “Oh you must want a girl now!” and I just wonder, how the hell can we hope to put a dent in domestic violence rates, in homophobic and transphobic assaults, in femicide rates, in sexual assault stats, in teen boy radicalization rates, etc. if humans still believe there are fundamental differences in the social value of boys and of girls, of men and women. How can human beings be fully themselves, be multi-faceted, be fully human, if some characteristics are embraced within themselves and others not. How can we hope for pay equity, for gender balanced budgets, for an end to sexist school dress codes that unfairly target and sexualize young girls, if we treat girls and boys so differently, if we buy them different nursery sets, different sleepers (and wholly new wardrobes when they have an “opposite sex” sibling—thanks capitalism!), different reading material, different coloured lego sets, different toys and bedding and pencil cases according to their genitals, their sex? I also wonder how many kids go through life feeling like they’d have been loved better if they had been a boy/a girl. I’m sure that stat would make us all cry (to say nothing of the kids who are the “right” sex but don’t “measure up” in other ways—by being gay, by not procreating…)

Being asked “what I’m having” makes me want to flip tables and raise my kids deep in the forest, far away from all of this. And the irony is that the only thing that does impact on any kind of preference for a sex is entirely social. Do I have it in me to listen to shitty comments about our food bill with three sons? Do I have it in me to shrug off comments about how my older kids will need to cavalierly protect a baby sister? Or about how “With three sons, surely one of them will take over the farm!” or just “Finally a girl!” I don’t have the stomach for it. For any of it. And while I wish I at least lived in a place, in a language, that allowed for easy non-gendered pronoun use, the French language certainly is not that.

I’d also wager that 80-98% of kids would be hella more gender queer if we stopped caring so much about this and just let kids be kids. Now wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing.  

So there it is. I’m happily pregnant and we don’t care “what we’re having.” We wish others didn’t either.    


I had a miscarriage last week. I can’t believe how little we talk about pregnancy loss, how common a mourning it is, and how little a person can know about miscarriage as they’re going through it. The devastation of having a wanted pregnancy come to an abrupt end is intense enough without the fear of not knowing what to expect physically.

These have been the hardest weeks, as I bled in bed, imagining the worst. I’ve kept sane by mending all of the socks I own (no joke, all of them). I parented terribly. I stopped going to work. And yet, I can’t imagine what this experience would have been like if I didn’t have two vaginal births under my belt. Births that equipped me with a very intimate understanding of what my body is capable of doing, and of expelling. If I didn’t have knowledge of labour pains and how to ease pains that feel like them. If I hadn’t had the good fortune of having two midwife assisted births where placentas were celebrated, where I learned to be in awe of what my body could craft—including this gloopy, bloody organ. And if I didn’t have a solid dozen women friends, who held space for me via the web (oh pandemic), mourning with me, checking in, sending solace and dropping off food and books.

I have the extreme good fortune of having two healthy, inquisitive and empathetic children, of being in a moment in time where my relationship with my partner is at its strongest (10 years in), and of being able to forgo employment income and wait this all out. Not everyone has so favorable a context.

To grieve and to start breaking down this silence around pregnancy loss, it was empowering to explain to my 5 and 8 year olds what I was going through. To see their faces light up at the news of the pregnancy and to see them sad and hesitant, trying to make sense of what this meant. Liberating too to answer so many questions, to explain/re-explain condoms, contraception and intercourse and tell these sweet souls that quite often grown-ups have sex for pleasure, and not at all to make babies, that there are different ways to conceive, and that when grown-ups have intercourse, all parties need to have fun. To do away with the secrecy, the discomfort, the awkwardness that limits how empowered, knowledgeable, kind and safe we are in terms of our sexual health, our bodies and reproduction. And we did this knowing that a kid’s opening line later that day on the phone was going to be “Allô! Ma maman fait une fausse couche.” (Won’t lie, it’s a moment where I wished our personal landline and our business phone number weren’t one and the same).

On that note, the highlight of the week was hands down getting a call from my youngest’s teacher as we were driving to the hospital, saying that my sweet, timid boychild raised his hand during a cop’s school presentation about stranger danger (here are good alternatives to that tired, old framing) to say with sadness “ma maman a fait une fausse couche hier soir.” Bless you, beautiful children, for processing, for showing grown-ups how to be vulnerable, and for smashing down the wall of silence and shame that surrounds these experiences. May you be better equipped than I if/when the time comes for you to support people you love through this heartbreak.

I process hard things by reading. If you have any book titles to share, books that have helped you grieve–whether nonfiction or collections of poetry, please send them my way.

la reconnaissance obligatoire.

Un ‘ami du père noël’ a visité le CPE de mon plus jeune ce matin et a offert à chaque enfant un livre. J’apprécie énormément les initiatives pour favoriser l’alphabétisation et l’éveil à la lecture. C’est une façon importante d’aider à outiller les humains de tout âge, pour favoriser leur agentivité, leur capacité de s’imaginer dans le monde, et de s’imaginer le monde.

C’est la deuxième fois que mon enfant reçoit un livre gratuitement comme ça.

Mais c’est la première fois que le livre a un carton dessus avec le libellé : « Inscrivez votre adresse. L’enfant qui recevra votre livre pourra vous remercier »  avec l’adresse complète, écrite à main, d’une personne qui habite à Montréal.

C’est problématique de proposer aux gens de se faire remercier (par des parents, on s’entend, c’est pas mon chou de 4 ans qui va lire ce mot, être inspiré d’une profonde gratitude et sortir sa plume) pour un don à une campagne d’alphabétisation.

C’est malaisant de se voir proposer d’écrire un mot à Madame Unetelle à Montréal pour avoir payé un livre à mon fils (et pas parce que ce n’est pas un beau geste de faire un don à la Fondation pour l’alphabétisation, au contraire).  

Je suis une enthousiaste partisane de programmes universels qui permettent à toutes et tous de bénéficier sans avoir à « prouver » leur pauvreté avec de la paperasse, à montrer que oui, elles sont vraiment « dans le besoin » et « défavorisées. » Des programmes qui ne crés pas de la honte chez celles et ceux qui s’en servent, ou chez les enfants bénéficiaires. Des programmes de petits déjeuners pour tout le monde, des sacs à dos de préparation à la maternelle pour tous les enfants, etc. Bref des programmes qui témoignent d’un projet de société, d’une reconnaissance du bien commun et de la responsabilité partagée que nous avons d’assurer le bien-être de chacun.e. Mais ça ne marche pas si ce programme là est présenté comme « un cadeau » d’un inconnu bienfaisant, une inconnue qui en fait, aimerait ben ça recevoir une carte pour qu’on reconnaisse son geste.

(Dans la foire aux questions du site web, je trouve la question « Quand aurons-nous des nouvelles de l’enfant? » (des nouvelles de l’enfant?!) Et la réponse :

 « La carte postale sert à recevoir des nouvelles de l’enfant. Il est facultatif pour le donateur de la remplir. Toutefois, l’enfant est heureux de savoir qui lui envoie son livre-cadeau et de pouvoir écrire à cette personne en retour, s’il en a envie. »)

Est-ce que l’enfant a besoin de se montrer heureux de recevoir un cadeau pour « mériter » son livre? Est-ce que les moins nantis ont cette double responsabilité de survivre avec peu ET de se montrer reconnaissants des miettes d’aide ou d’une bonne volonté qui se pointe (plus ou moins habilement)  de temps en temps (et surtout pendant le temps des fêtes)? Ça me rappelle ce post ou encore celui-ci à propos du poverty tourism.

Moi ce qui m’allume à propos de la littérature et de la lecture c’est la grande justice qu’elle propose. La démocratisation des savoirs, des idées, des possibles qu’elle sème. C’est l’émancipation qui peu poindre et jaillir d’elle.

C’est le contraire de cette culture qui demande la gratitude des gens qui « se font aider. »   


On a reçu un dépliant avec le livre. Son titre c’est « Ta bibliothèque a vraiment TOUT pour te plaire! » Je rappelle que les livres sont distribué aux enfants « des établissements les plus défavorisés de chaque région »* et que nombre d’entre eux sont sûrement en région, où les services/ressources/activités des bibliothèques publiques et scolaires n’ont peut-être pas « tout pour plaire. »

Tout ça me donne le goût de mener une étude, une belle étude longitudinale où, dans une communauté défavorisée X, l’argent des dons de livres et le temps des donateurs désireux de promouvoir les livres seraient investis dans des ressources communautaires durables. Des bibliothèques municipales bien stockées de livres publiés après les années 1990, des bibliothèques avec des heures d’ouverture robustes, avec des bibliothécaires allumé.e.s et désireux/euses de voir les livres déplacés, déclassé, et empruntés, de voir des ados (même bruyant.e.s) rentrer, de voir des miettes sur les tapis si ça veut dire qu’y’a des touts petits qui viennent découvrir le plaisir de manipuler des livres. Et de voir qu’est-ce que ça donne comme résultat après 10 ans, après 25 ans.

Donnez des livres, certes, mais sans créer l’attente chez les donateurs qu’ils vont se faire remercier par des enfants. Personne ne veut se sentir comme un bénéficiaire d’aumônes, surtout pour un « cadeau ».

*La Fondation cible les établissements les plus défavorisés de chaque région, notamment en recourant à l’indice de milieu socioéconomique (IMSE), calculé par le ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur

On freeschool.

Spending a day with a group of people who’ve come to learn, who’ve come to share — to share space and knowledge, to meet others, to catch up and break bread, and savour being at the farm, notepads, mugs and warm woolens at the ready.

It does my heart worlds of good to know that I know people who value these craftings of spaces as much as I, who yearn for these authentic moments, and are eager to generously listen to the young and old talk about things that energize them and make them feel alive. 

We learned about fermentation and the magic of bees, carbon capture and the Anishinaabemowin language, about domestic and global LGBTI rights and the joy of prime numbers. We also got a glimpse of our farm through the eyes of a six year old in my eldest’s very first solo farm tour (cue tears of mama pride and heartwarm).

photo credit. Karen Allidina.

Experiencing different iterations of community resilience is my most favourite thing.  

Am all gratitude to those who came (and to those who wanted to come), to those who helped me think through what freeschool could be, and to the farm for providing the time and the space to make it all happen, year after year.  xox

photo credit. Karen Allidina.

non au projet de loi 21.

(lettre envoyé le 29 mars 2019)

Bonsoir M. Lacombe,

Je viens de lire un article sur Radio-Canada qui vous cite disant que les Québecois attendent depuis 10 ans pour ce projet de loi voulant empêcher le port de signes religieux pas les employéEs de l’État.
Je suis tout à fait en désaccord avec votre projet de loi. C’est de la discrimination pure et simple. De plus, en tant que personne agnostique, qui envoit ses enfants dans l’école publique québécoise de notre village–une école avec une croix massive à l’extérieur du bâtiment–et où il semble y avoir pas mal trop de contenu qui porte sur Jésus, l’hypocrisie de ce projet de loi m’épouvante.
Célébrer Noël, j’accepte à contrecoeur, Pâques, c’est déjà trop, mais avoir des enfants (de 3 et 6 ans) qui m’expliquent la crucification de Jésus-Christ en rentrant de l’école et qui ne sont pas du tout en mesure de partager des faits divers d’autres religions, ça ne passe pas. Elle est où la laïcité, là-dedans.
Je vous demande d’être à l’écoute des groupes, à la fois divers et multiples, qui demandent à votre gouvernement de repenser la chose et de retirer votre projet de loi.
Merci et bonne soirée.
Josée Madéia Cyr.
St-André-Avellin, QC.

la pluie, le printemps. les graines, les poèmes.


A. ouvre obstinément une des fenêtres de la cuisine depuis le milieu de l’hiver, malgré le froid et malgré le travail que représente chauffer une maison exclusivement au bois. Mais ce matin, se réveiller en entendant la pluie tomber et les oiseaux chanter, c’est tout à fait parfait (même si ça veut dire qu’il faudra rentrer plus de bois au sous-sol en après-m.).


À mon grand soulagement, je n’ai pas créer des home-bodies qui refusent de passer du temps dehors (ce qui avait été une grande crainte. Élevés sur une ferme en plus, imaginez la honte!). Ils sortent sous la pluie battante pour faire du vélo, retrouver des bâtons, construire des bateaux pour nos flaques-lacs.


J’en profite pour semer une dizaine de plateaux de semis. Du brocoli au coléus, des tomates à la camomille. Avec un tablier fleuri sur le dos et un super balado– L’écriture intime chez les nouvelles voix féminines. Une rencontre avec Alexie Morin, Marjolaine Beauchamp et Rose-Aimée Automne T. Morin.

Comme ça nourri de remplir la maison des voix de ces écrivaines. Ces grandes résilientes qui parlent de la peur qui annexe, du coût de raconter (où non) l’intime, et de ces super mamans qui disent bye-bye à leurs petits le matin avec des smokes dans les mains.


Un de ces matins qui représente le matin idéaltypique à la ferme–quand tout le monde vaque à sa tâche et que le coeur, même maussade, est plein de poèmes.

Mourning our way through kids books / Le deuil par l’album jeunesse

A beloved friend of ours died recently. He had been sick for some time, so it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise, but for some reason, it did. It hit me like a brick.

I’ve discovered that I know very little about mourning, having been fortunate not to lose people close to me who weren’t quite old. Parenting and mourning has been a hard combination, but also good in some ways. These kids loved Danny too, cried for him too, were sad looking at videos we’d saved of them all over the years too.

And while I made zero preparations/arrangements for my own mourning process, I had a high stack of kids books about death and mourning on hold at our public library. While I know these books were welcomed by the kids, they actually helped me immensely. Three in particular.

Here are the top ten books we read about death.


Le coeur et la bouteille. Écrit par Oliver Jeffers. (traduit de l’anglais The Heart And The Bottle).

Un de mes préférés. La douce simplicité caractéristique des textes de Jeffers, accompagnés de belles illustrations qui montrent le côté poétique et très factuelle de la curiosité, de l’amour, du partage, des découvertes, et ensuite du vide, de l’incertitude, de l’absence.



The Goodbye Book. Written and Illustrated by Todd Parr.

Sometimes the consistency of Todd Parr is comforting. I especially appreciated the opening lines « It’s hard to say goodbye to someone. You might not know what to feel. » The book breaks down the stages of grief in a small way and while it doesn’t necessarily do justice to the non-linear quality of grieving, it is a kids book and the kids found that a-okay.



Le petit livre de la mort et de la vie. Écrit par Delphine Saulnière, illustré par Rémi Saillard.

De ce livre, écrit sous forme de question et réponse, j’apprécie tout particulièrement les questions simples, les réponses généreuses et la reconnaissance et l’inclusion de différentes croyances et religions. Un livre philosophique et authentique comme les enfants.



The Dead Bird. Written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

I got this book from the library before I started looking for books about death and the mourning of good friends. It’s a delightful book and a lovely story about kids trying on and practicing the rituals and ceremony around death that they’ve encountered–the singing of songs, wrapping of bodies, writing on stones, walking in processions, and the grave tending. It’s matter-of-fact and authentic, like children. For my farm kids, for whom death itself is not very troubling, this book was a good introduction into rituals around dying, which they are less familiar with.



Au revoir Hippo. Écrit par Simon Puttock, illustré par Alison Bartlett.

Un livre qui touche spécifiquement à la mort d’un ami proche, quoiqu’un ami âgé. Dans l’histoire Hippo et Singe sont meilleurs amis, Hippo raconte à chaque soir des histoires à Singe, qui à son tour, la fait rire. Un jour Hippo dit à Singe qu’elle est fatiguée et le temps de sa mort approche. Singe est outré, incrédule, et finalement triste. Il passe beaucoup de temps seul avant d’être ouvert à la présence, au confort et à la chaleur de caméléon.



The FUNeral. Written and illustrated by Matt James.

I expected more from this one. It’s the story of a child going to the funeral of a relative she didn’t know well, where she plays the role of someone who is going to the funeral (« Norma was practicing her sad face in the mirror of her parent’s room. Though she was, in fact, pretty happy. ») After the church service, she and her cousin Ray go outside to play in a lovely natural environment, until it’s time to go home.



L’arbre de Tata. Écrit par Yu Liqiong, illustré par Zaü.

La tendre histoire d’une enfant et de sa grande-tante qui apprennent à se connaître lorsque la petite va habiter chez elle pour un temps. En partageant leurs journées, Tata lui raconte de plus en plus de sa vie, jusqu’à lui montrer son arbre et de faire allusion à une grande histoire d’amour. Quand Tata est mourante, la petite comprend qu’elle s’en va rejoindre quelqu’un dans l’au-delà, ce qui apèse sa tristesse.



The Scar. Written by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec.

This was the most touching children’s book on death and grieving that I read. A young child loses his mother to illness and navigates his anger and sadness as he gets used to life solo with his father–focusing on the way his mother made honey zigzags on his bread, her smell, the way she had of comforting him. A very touching read. (That said, I’m grateful that the children’s librarian I spoke to made sure to tell me that unless the person who died was a child’s parents it’s usually best not to read books where it’s parents who die, so I read this one solo.).



Le grand coeur de madame Lili. Écrit par Gilles Tibo, illustré par Irene Luxbacher.

Un beau livre à propos d’une grande bricoleuse au grand coeur qui prend le temps à chaque matin de se rendre au parc pour réparer les jouets, les vêtements et les parapluies brisés des gens qui s’y trouvent. Un jour, elle voit un enfant qui pleure et pleure de tristesse. Elle se rend compte qu’elle peut réparer aussi les coeurs brisés avec de la tendresse, des berceuses et de la patience. Un matin, son canari adoré meurt. Elle arrive au parc toute bouleversée et raconte la mort de son oiseau. Plus tard, les enfants reviennent au parc en chantant et portant des dessins d’oiseau. J’ai apprécié le message d’entraide dans le deuil dans ce livre.



Cry, Heart, But Never Break. Written by Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charlotte Pardi.

I didn’t expect to like this one as I usually find personifications of death too macabre and too sombre, especially in children’t books/films, but this one was one of my very favourites. When the children see Death arrive at their door, suspecting that s/he has come to take their grandmother, they stall the visitor by offering cup upon cup of coffee.  Death, understanding the ruse, tells the four children a story in which the twin siblings Sorrow and Grief who live on the bottom of the hills, one day meet the twin siblings Joy and Delight who live on top of the hills. Both pairs had felt that there was something missing, somehow.

(My only critique is the very unoriginal heteronormativity in the text.)

Once they meet, Sorrow and Delight instantly connect, as do Grief and Joy. « Each couldn’t live without the other. » The kids get it, let Death come, and then they grieve. And they lived with their joy and their sorrow.

A reminder I needed.

thank you, Paul Dewar.


A few weeks ago, I realized I was feeling really politically winded. Apathetic almost. I sat with the feeling for a while, wondering from whence it came. Sure, I tear up at the radio newscasts regularly, fascists are gaining ground everywhere and the prospect of ecological collapse is impending, but let’s be honest, this wasn’t really new.

With the news of Paul Dewar’s prognosis and his launching of Youth Action Now, it hit me. I realized what it was. Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house, I have lived (until recently) in ridings with progressive, can-do, Members of Parliament. When I got back from a study stint in Sweden–a country I had chosen because of its feminist and democratic traditions–I lived in Paul Dewar’s riding. I got to vote for a progressive who got elected. And re-elected. I saw him at events and received prompt responses back when I sent him letters about issues that mattered to me. He agreed with me. Every time. It was empowering to know that I was represented by someone who had strong progressive stances, and by someone who could, would and did make things happen. When I moved to Halifax, my MP was none other than Megan Leslie. And when I moved back to Ottawa for the Parliamentary Internship Programme, I was again represented by Paul Dewar. I even got to work in the same gorgeous spaces and see his integrity and deep care firsthand.


Now I live in a riding represented federally by someone who won’t get back to me when I get in touch looking for help sorting out dental insurance for refugees and whose office’s hands are tied when I call and write about getting very large graffitied swastikas removed from a highway overpass. It hurts my heart. But more than that, their complacency engenders apathy and cynicism in me. It’s sapped a lot of the respect I have for the institutions of our parliamentary democracy.

I think a lot about agency. About what it is that fosters this sense of oneself as being able to create change–the political imagination and roll-up-your-sleeves resourcefulness. Having a Member of Parliament who politically had my back and who, I knew, was in the business of helping constituents, made a world of difference for me. How beautifully formative. It’s had a tremendous impact on my confidence that initiatives that strive for greater equality and justice can–with stick-to-it-iveness and elbow grease–get off the ground and find their champions.

I have so missed living in a riding represented by Paul Dewar. I wish I had taken the time to write to him to let him know.

Reading his words, I recommit to doing my utmost to rekindle my sense of political agency and to shift my focus to community building when politics get me down.



favourite socially conscious kids’ books. presentation + book list.



I’m the mother of two boy kids, aged 6 and 3.


I’ve always loved picture books and libraries, so I did expect to enjoy discovering new books and reading with my kids, but I hadn’t anticipated the extent to which books would become a life line or the extent to which books would become their own storyline in my parenting journey.


First, what I love most about children’s books: they are place savers, they are conversation starters.


As I embarked on the politically intimidating task of raising two race conscious, feminist, and progressive white, blond haired, blue eyed, boy kids in (our homogenous) rural Canada, I remember reading an article on a great website called ‘Raising race conscious children’ (race about the importance for white kids to read picture books with protagonists that do not look like them. It said something along the lines of “you’re going to have a hard time talking about the concept of racism with your kids when they’re 4, 5 or 6 if you don’t name race when they’re 1, 2 and 3.


Two things about that speak to me.


First, we hear a lot about the importance of representation in books. That it’s so important for kids to see themselves reflected in the books they read. For biracial kids to see families that look like theirs, for kids with two moms to see families like theirs, for kids with disabilities to see protagonists that look like them.


And anyone who’s done a diversity audit of their school libraries will probably tell you that there is a huge gap in what the school body looks like and what’s reflected in that schools resources. (see



But what we too often forget is that the kids who DO see themselves reflected most of the time badly need to read books where they can see other realities represented. Too often, everything aligns for them to think that their experiences are universal (that white is universal, that male is universal).


I see this in the random books that end up on our shelves and in our library bags. They’re great books, there’s nothing wrong with them. But if we’re looking to raise a generation of empathetic young people, I believe we need to reinforce the message that all kids can relate to all kids, that is, reading a great book about a black girl protagonist is interesting for black girls like it is for white boys.  Children of colour, girl kids have been asked to stretch their imaginations so that stories about white boys are relatable to them. We need to expect and foster the same imagination in our white boys.


The second thing I love about the idea that we talk about skin colour and race to our toddlers to have the foundation to talk about racism with our preschoolers and youth is the reminder that we need to be in it for the long game.



In other words, I want to be able to talk to my teen boys about how to combat rape culture on their campuses in 15 years, so I talk to them about consent a lot right now.



My second top reason for turning to children’s books is that I really believe that it takes a village to raise a child. But when it comes to a number of values that are important to me, I don’t have that village. For example, no one else is telling my gender creative first grader that kids can wear dresses and identify as boys. And that’s a lonely place for both of us to be.


Books are authoritative. Their messages are published and real. Finding books that reinforce progressive messages that my kids don’t hear in their day to day, messages that a lot of the time contradict what they hear, gives weight to the lessons I’m trying to teach them.


My third reason for turning to children’s books: they help me talk about issues I don’t know how to talk about.


I read Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress with my kids—a book where a boy child who wears a beloved tangerine dress is excluded from games and friendships—because I want to talk about bullying and gender identity but don’t know how to bring it up without sounding like a nosy, frightened mom.


I love reading about Florence Mills in ‘Harlem’s Little Blackbird’ or about Viola Desmond or Rosa Parks because I’m not sure how to talk to my kids about where segregation comes from and how it shapes, limits and annexes lives.


One of my favourite finds when it comes to giving me tools to talk about a big issue is When We Were Alone.


This book was written by David A. Robertson, illustrated by one of my favourite illustrators Julie Flett and published by Highwater Press. To my great joy it was translated into French by Les Éditions des Plaines in 2017 and titled Quand on était seuls.


What I really appreciate about this book is that it’s in a vivid, resilient, strong present day where a grandmother explains parts of a past that are extremely relatable to children.


Young children can easily empathize with the examples brought up in this book: of not being able to wear your hair the way you want, not being able to wear the clothes you feel good in, not being able to be with your parents, your siblings. Kids GET that. They FEEL that.


This book also highlights that you don’t need to tell the whole story right away, that a 5-6 year old doesn’t need to learn the traumatic details of residential schools to start learning about the history of residential schools.  But they do need to be exposed to this part of our history. And when the topic gets revisited, as they grow, we add layers. Much like we do when we teach math or languages. We don’t start with algebra or complex verb conjugation. You need a foundation and you need to build on it over time. The long game.


Books like When We Were Alone set us up to be able to start having these conversations.  My hope is also that by being willing and eager to broach difficult topics with the children in our lives, they will be willing and able to do the same with us.


As a closing word, I’d like to share 3 reminders that I repeat to myself often. With kids and equity/justice issues, be explicit. Kids pick up on all of the unspoken and condoned unfairnesses in the world. They pick up on the biases, on the prejudice. They need to hear their grown-ups counter these before they take them as fact. And I’ve found that in explaining things to my kids, I need to remember to keep it really simple.


Second, I think a lot of adults worry about the questions kids will ask when we read books about big issues. Truth is their questions are usually fairly simple. They’re not looking for a history lesson. In the parent and teacher guide and accompanying video to When We Were Alone, a grade 1 teacher who reads this book with her kids says the bulk of the questions she gets are along the lines of “could the kids bring their stuffies?” or “could they call their parents?” A ‘No they couldn’t’ is enough. And to the big “why” questions (i.e. “but why would they take the kids from their families, maman?”), it’s a good opportunity to be really straightforward. My 6 year old doesn’t want to listen to me explaining the history of colonialism but he does want me to answer truthfully. Why?  “because the European settlers who came here, thought they were better than the Indigenous people and taking kids from communities is the fastest way to lose languages and celebrations (cultures). Because it hurts people so so much to be separated from the people they love.” I might add that I can’t imagine how sad and unhealthy our town would be if all the kids were taken away. I tell them that they’re safe and that we need to learn about this together to make sure that all kids are safe.

Lastly, when it comes to giving hard, necessary conversations a go with kids: blunder on! We learn by trying and by making mistakes.


I brought a milk crate of books for people to peruse after the panel. Here’s a list of what I brought. It contains some of our favourites, the ones we own.  (The all time favourites are marked with a * )



  • Little You, Written by Richard Van Camp, Illustratef by Julie Flett (board book)*
  • When We Were Alone, by David A. Robertson, Illustrated by Julie FLett (traduit au français sous le titre Quand on était seuls)*
  • Shi-shi-etko, written by Nicola I. Campbell, Illustrated by Kim LaFave (a été traduit au français, même titre)
  • Shin-chi’s Canoe, written by Nicole I. Campbell, illustrated by Kim LaFave (a été traduit au français sous Le canoe de Shin-chi)
  • A Day with Yayah. Written by Nicola I. Campbell, illustrated by Julie Flett.
  • My Heart Fills With Happiness. Written by Monique Gray Smith. Illustrated by Julie Flett. (board book)


People of Colour

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
  • Joy, By Joyce Carol Thomas and Illustrated by Pamela Johnson (board book)*
  • A Taste of Freedom. Gandhi and the Great Salt March. By Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Illustrated by Giuliano Ferri
  • Bagages. Mon histoire. Poèmes de jeunes immigrants illustrés par Rogé.
  • Rosa Parks. Écrit par Lisbeth Kaiser, illustré Marta Antelo*
  • A Sweet Smell of Roses. By Angela Johnson illustrated by Eric Velasquez.
  • Susan and Gordon Adopt a Baby (Sesame Street). Written by Judy Freudberg, illustrated by Joe Mathieu.
  • Something Beautiful. Written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, Illustrated Chris K. Soentpiet*
  • Harlem’s Little Blackbirk. The Story of Florence Mills. Written by Renée Watson, Illustrated by Christian Robinson.
  • Last Stop on Market Street. Words by Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson.*
  • Fatima et les voleurs de clémentines. Écrit par Mireille Messier, illustré par Gabrielle Grimard.
  • Desmond and the Very Mean Word.Written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams. Illustrated by A.G. Ford.
  • Counting on Community. Written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara (board book)



  • Tu Peux. Écrit et illustré par Elise Gravel
  • A Girl Like Any Other. Written and illustrated by Sophie Labelle
  • Ada La grincheuse en tutu. Écrit et illustré par Elise Gravel
  • Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. Written by Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant. (A été traduit au français sous le titre Boris Brind’amour et la robe orange)*
  • Deux garçons et un secret. Écrit par Andrée Poulin, illustrée par Marie Lafrance.*


Family diversity

  • The Great Big Book of Families. Written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith
  • The Family Book. By Todd Parr
  • We Belong Together. A Book About Adoption and Families. Todd Parr.*
  • Daddy, Papa, and Me, by Lesléa Newman, Illustrated by Carol Thompson (board book)
  • Mommy, Mama, and Me By Lesléa Newman, ILlystrated by Carol Thompson (board book)


Being Different / Feelings

  • It’s Okay To Be Different. By Todd Parr
  • The Great Big Book of Feelings. Written by Mary Hoffman, Illustrated by Ros Asquith


Politics/Feminism for kids

  • My First Book of Feminism (for boys) By Julie Merberg, Illustrated by Michèle Brummer Everett (board book)
  • On n’est pas au centre du monde. Par Claire Cantais et Jean-Loïc Le Quellec
  • Atlas des inégalités. Texte de Stéphanie Ledu et Stéphane Frattini, Illustrations d’Élodie Balandras et Julien Castanié.
  • The Peace Book. By Todd Parr.*
  • Le petit livre pour parler des sans-abri. Par Dr Xavier Emmanuelli, Sophie Bordet-Petillon, Rémi Saillard
  • L’homme sans chaussettes. Écrit par Jennifer Couëlle, illusté par Ninon Pelletier*