Olivia Chow

by FORP on July 22nd, 2013

Member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina
Ontario Ranger, 1974
I am going to tell you a story about falling in love when I was sixteen – and how that experience changed my life.  But first, I need to give you a little background about my life. So here’s the 10-minute compression of the past half century:
When I was thirteen, my mother and father immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong.  This move was supposed to give us a wonderful new life, but, like so many immigrants, we suffered many disappointments. Canada did not seem to be the promised land, after all.  We had a comfortable middle class existence in Hong Kong – but in Toronto, my father couldn’t get a job teaching, even though he was qualified and spoke English well. He tried to do many things – get a masters degree, drive a taxi, deliver Chinese food – but nothing worked.
My mom went from having a maid in Hong Kong, to being a maid in a hotel. It was a tough physical job – even tougher when she went to work in the laundry department.  Within a few years, my dad had a mental breakdown and landed in a psychiatric ward. He had electro-shock treatments and was on medication that profoundly affected his ability to function. He took out his anger physically on my mom. Home – our apartment in St. James town — was a place of anger and violence.
So life was hard. Here, we were on our own, with no relatives or friends to help us out.  But I did well in Jarvis Collegiate and one summer, when I was 16, I had an opportunity to escape. I saw an ad calling for a “Junior Forest Ranger”. Against the wishes of my parents, I went up north to work in the bush for the summer — planting trees, cleaning up portage routes and campgrounds – and living in the wilderness.
So picture this, an immigrant kid, 3 years in Canada, taking a bus a thousand kilometres to Wawa – that’s the place North of Superior with the big goose! And then, I travelled many more kilometers beyond, to a wilderness camp near Lake Superior.
And that’s when I fell in love. I fell madly, passionately in love – I fell in love with the Canadian wilderness. I finally saw the promised land.  All of a sudden, from never seeing stars living in the middle of Toronto in St. James town, I was seeing millions of stars and northern lights, watching beautiful sunsets, admiring the magnificent colours in the Canadian Shield.  I was in love — even the black flies, the horse flies, the deer flies, the sand flies and the mosquitos seemed lovely to me.
That was a life-changing experience. I came to appreciate nature. I came to have a sense of Canada – of being a Canadian. I came to understand those words we sing in the anthem – the true North, strong and free.  I came to have a sense of the infinite – of being part of something huge, and powerful, pure and beautiful. This vast land, with boreal forest, Great Lakes and thousands of pristine rivers.
I came to understand there was a powerful force bigger than me, bigger than my family problems. I found a sense of peace and belonging I had never felt before. And I began a lifelong love affair with the wilderness….
I often wish that all Canadians could have the chance to experience this majestic land of ours, called Canada. To experience the wilderness and the awesome power of nature. Especially young people.
But, unfortunately, the Ranger program is in the process of closing. And camps for young people are generally too expensive and out of reach for many families.
I wish all could know the grandeur, the sense of the infinite – because all that power, and all that glory, does bring peace. This much I know. And that is the one thing I want you to know….  Whatever we do, however we see ourselves, whatever our passions are, it’s important to take the time to explore the vastness and mystery around us. To take the time to reflect, to listen, and to be inspired.
The blog post is excerpted, with permission, from Olivia’s speech on May 8, 2013, at Autism Ontario’s “Top Ten Event – One Thing to Know before you die”.

Posted in not categorized    Tagged with 1974


David Freitas - July 22nd, 2013 at 9:15 PM
Thank you sharing your commends. Muito obrigado pela sua informacao..Deus teja contigo,
Melanie Jr '88 Mink Lake - August 5th, 2013 at 5:12 AM
Thank you

Leave a Comment

This blog is an online campagin against the closure of the Ontario Ranger Program. If you are interested in contributing please email us at: friendsoftheorp@gmail.com.


follow on
follow on