The Promise of Canada

LauriePRecently I had the opportunity to go to a book event featuring award-winning author Charlotte Gray who was being interviewed (by none other than fellow Canadian author Susanna Kearsley) about her recently published book The Promise of Canada.  It was an interesting interview which got to the heart of why Gray chose this specific format and focus for her tenth published book.

Gray arrived in Canada 40 years ago, and as an immigrant she brings a unique perspective as she chronicles the elements that have most influenced our 150 year old country.  Each chapter focuses on one person within each of these elements. She doesn’t necessarily choose well-known Canadians (and has consciously not focused on Prime Ministers and famous athletes) and yet the diverse group of people she has chosen are pivotal in the formation of the Canada we know today.

These influential Canadians include:

– George Etienne Cartier and his involvement in the formation of federalism

– Sam Steele, one of the founding officers in the Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP)

– Emily Carr and the distinction and recognition of Canadian art

– Harold Innis and his Staples Theory about how the exploitation and export of natural staples (fur, lumber) effected Canadian economics, politics and culture

– Tommy Douglas and the beginning of Canadian Medicare

– Margaret Atwood for the beginning of CanLit

– Bertha Wilson – first woman on the Supreme Court of Canada

– Elijah Harper – politician and First Nations leader and his effect on the Meech Lake Accord

– Preston Manning – a politican who changed Canadian politics more than many people realize and five short vignettes which include a mayor, rapper, artist, journalist and business innovator

This is a well researched book. Gray uses first and secondary sources as well as interviews with some of the subjects and brings it all together for an enjoyable read. This is no dry textbook-like read nor is it a comprehensive history of Canada. It is compelling (even for this rare Non-Fiction reader) and filled with facts, humour and history.  It is an honest and a non-partisan look at our country from infancy to modern day and will give readers a better insight into how our country attained its unique culture, diversity, values and all the things that bring us together as a country.

While overall this is a positive look at Canada’s history Gray also recognizes some events that weren’t our proudest moments – most egregious being the treatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples in the past, present and their as yet unknown future within our country.  Even these negative moments have influenced the formation of our country.

Since this is Canada’s sesquicentennial this book is very apropos and a nice reminder about where we started, our struggles and the hard work that others did to form our country. I had my favourite Canadians within the bunch but this book has shown me that although I am a proud Canadian I didn’t know as much about my country as I thought. Gray has enlightened me and helped me to reconnect with the country that I’m proud to call home.  And even though the question “What does it mean to be a Canadian?” may continue to be elusive I think that understanding where we’ve come from will help us to see that our uniqueness, core values and history bind us together more than separate us.

– – Laurie P.

Harry & Snowman

There’s a quote I once saw in a horse magazine. “Every rider has that one special horse which changes everything about them.” For horseman Harry deLeyer, Snowman was that horse. Their story was recently captured in the documentary Harry & Snowman.

deLeyer was born in Holland in 1927 into a hardworking farm family. During WWII, young Harry and his family aided the Resistance, saving human lives but also the lives of hundreds of starving horses, left behind by the Nazis as they fled following defeat.

Newly married, deLeyer and his young bride, Johanna, immigrated to the USA where he worked on a tobacco farm whilst dreaming of a life with horses. Opportunity came in 1954 when deLeyer was offered a job teaching riding at a prestigious private girls’ school in New York State, a position he ended up holding for 22 years.

In 1956 deLeyer went to a horse auction, searching for a solid horse, suitable for the beginners at the school. Due to car trouble, he arrived as the auction was wrapping up. He took a quick look around at the “leftover” horses which, depressingly, were destined for the slaughter horse. A flea-bitten grey, ex-plow horse caught his eye. As deLeyer looked up at the horse behind the stock trailer’s sides, the horse looked down at him with large, soft eyes. And, like in a classic romance novel, their gazes locked and a lifelong connection was made.

deLeyer offered $80 for the grey, including delivery to his farm, and a deal was quickly struck. “Snowman” had entered deLeyer’s life and would change it forever.

As someone who has been involved in the horse industry for close to 40 years, it was a given that I would borrow this movie from the library. But you really don’t need to be a horseperson to appreciate the story of deLeyer and Snowman.

Hearing Snowman’s story in deLeyer’s own words, paired with interviews with show jumping legends George Morris and Rodney Jenkins, is a treat. Snowman was retired when I was just a toddler, but I do remember seeing deLeyer competing in Canada in the early 1980s as “The Galloping Grandfather”. And deLeyer is still riding and coaching today, even as he closes in on his 90th birthday.

I actually usually avoid watching “horsey” films as the vast majority are disappointing, cheesy, inaccurate or truly cringe-worthy. This documentary of deLeyer, Snowman, and deLeyer’s eight children, offers insight into show jumping (and life) in the 1950s. It is at times humourous, definitely heart-warming and inspiring.

If you’d like to learn more about deLeyer and Snowman, borrow the bestselling book by Elizabeth Letts, The Eighty-Dollar Champion.

— Sandi H.

March Book Clubs

Join us for book club conversation at any meeting.

No need to sign up. No need to clean your house. The WPL Book Clubs have “open” membership, so you can drop  in once in a while, or come faithfully every month.

For more information, contact Christine at or 519-886-1310 ext. 146.


Monday, March 13th @ 7 p.m.  – Main Library, Auditorium

history's people
Monday Evening Book GroupMonday, March 13th at 7 p.m. :  Main Library – Auditorium

History’s People: personalities and the past by Margaret MacMillan

Margaret MacMillan gives her own personal selection of figures of the past, women and men, some famous and some little-known, who stand out for her. Some have changed the course of history and even directed the currents of their times. Others are memorable for being risk-takers, adventurers, or observers. She looks at the concept of leadership through Bismarck and the unification of Germany; William Lyon MacKenzie King and the preservation of the Canadian Federation; Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the bringing of a unified United States into the Second World War. She also notes how leaders can make huge and often destructive mistakes, as in the cases of Hitler, Stalin, and Thatcher. Richard Nixon and Samuel de Champlain are examples of daring risk-takers who stubbornly went their own ways, often in defiance of their own societies. Then there are the dreamers, explorers, and adventurers, individuals like Fanny Parkes and Elizabeth Simcoe who manage to defy or ignore the constraints of their own societies. Finally, there are the observers, such as Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and Victor Klemperer, a Holocaust survivor, who kept the notes and diaries that bring the past to life.

Thursday, March 16th at 1:30 p.m. – Main Library, Boardroom

Thursday Afternoon Book Group

The Widow by Fiona Barton

A loving husband or a heartless killer…she’d know, wouldn’t she? There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with accusing glares and anonymous harassment. Now her husband is dead, and there’s no reason to stay quiet. People want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth–that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything. For the reporter who has secured the exclusive interview, this is the scoop of a lifetime. For the detective who has lived a half-life since he failed to get justice for the victim, it is a chance to get at the truth that has eluded him for so long. For Jean, it’s a chance to defend herself, what she knew–and when. This is the tale of a missing child, narrated by the wife of the main suspect, the detective leading the hunt, and the journalist covering the case.


Mary Tyler Moore Show


Who can turn the world on with her smile? And take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile….Why, Mary Tyler Moore— of course.

I’m so excited. WPL has just ordered all seven seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I love that show! It is my all-time, favouritist TV show, ever. (Though unfortunately Mary Tyler Moore herself died in January.)

I’m looking forward to being reunited with the gang, who almost feel like old friends. In the TV newsroom, there’s Mary Richard’s boss, crusty Lou Grant; ego-maniac news anchor Ted Baxter; and good old dependable Murray Slaughter. In later seasons, Sue Ann Nivens (played by the incomparable Betty White) came on board and chased after Lou Grant every chance she got. In her home life, Mary’s best friend was the wonderfully wacky Rhoda Morgenstern (surely one of the greatest TV characters of all time).

For me, a lot of the appeal of the show is due to the Mary Richards character. She was young, single, pursuing an exciting career. Yet she always came across as a real person, as we saw plenty of insecurity and vulnerability in her.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was excellent in every regard. It was always so well written, so well acted and so very, very funny. It was awarded–let me see, quick Google check here–29 Emmys over its seven-year run.

The DVDs should be coming into the library soon. Yippee, time to celebrate. I know, I’ll  take off my hat and toss it up into the air—just like Mary.

– – Penny D.