News


On January 31, 2014 Greg Armstrong, Lawrence Neepin, Chris Shankaruk and Bramwell Ryan will be heading north to Shamattawa, a small First Nation’s community about 200 km from Gillam, Manitoba along a seasonal ice road. In so many ways the isolated reservation is the end of the road. A small village of about 1,200 people dropped in the bush in an area bigger than France, Belgium and Switzerland combined. And the road that dead-ends in Shamattawa is only open for weeks every year. The rest of the time getting in or out means buying expensive plane tickets. This is the home of the Shamattawa First Nation, a people who once roamed freely throughout this vast wilderness. Today the community of proud and resourceful individuals is struggling to cope with isolation, despair, addictions and a lack of opportunities. The numbers out of Shamattawa are grim. Suicide rates are off the charts; abuse, violence, theft and health problems are chronically high. Less than 5% of the community has a high school diploma and housing is terrible. But people are more than statistics. And while it is easy to focus only on the despair and seeming hopelessness, a balanced story means looking beyond the numbers. A new school is being built. The community owns and operates a van that transports people to and from the nursing station free of charge. There are strong family ties and many trying to make their village safer. And although Manitoba is known for friendliness (according to its licence plates) for at least one man from Iran, Shamattawa is the centre of hospitality. “I have nothing but great memories from… Shamattawa. By far the friendliest and most welcoming people I have ever encountered. I have learned so much about myself and life in general from my three years [there].” And the community’s recent gifts of generosity are more tangible. Kaska, the newest polar bear at the Winnipeg Zoo, comes from the Shamattawa region. Still no one can paper over the huge challenges faced by isolated people connected to the world by ice roads that open fewer days every year due to climate change. In some ways they are like the people of Israel who sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept in Psalm 137. The people of Shamattawa sit by God’s River and weep. But like the Israelites, they don’t give up. They know life can be different. They know that despite living at the end of the road in one of the world’s harshest climates, things can change for the better. Things will change. We are visiting Shamattawa in early February to gather evidence of...

Read More

My Kickstarter campaign to find Eti has only raised about 10% of the needed budget and the project closed last night. That means I will not be heading off to complete this documentary any time soon. I am deeply grateful for the financial support shown by many of you. Your pledges represent far more than money. They mean trust in my abilities and a shared belief that by telling stories – even hard ones – we can change the world, bit by bit. Thank you for your confidence and willingness to risk and sacrifice by backing this project. And for those who supported the project in other ways I also thank you. Although we sometimes live our lives as if cash really matters, we all know that it dwells far down on the list of things we value most like encouragement, passion, friendship and confidence. Many of you offered these most precious gifts and for them I am equally grateful. Know that I’ll keep looking for a way meet Eti again, wherever she is. It’s something I have to...

Read More

Together we can find Eti My Kickstarter campaign to find Eti and finally complete a documentary about her and her life has now launched. To make this happen I need your support in the next 30 days. I also need the support of lots of people in your networks. So please take a look at the project and if you think it’s worthwhile, make a donation. I’d really appreciate if you also let your friends know about how they too can help find Eti. Take a few minutes to watch the video, read the story about the project and then look over the rewards… there’s some neat stuff for project backers. If you want to support the project please do so before the January 12 deadline. Find this documentary – which you can help make happen – on the Kickstarter website by clicking here....

Read More

Dispatches is being overhauled so while you are here watch for falling bytes and mangled pages. We hope everything will be done soon.

Read More

A lament for lost time | Ten years ago today a Bison transport truck lost control on the Trans-Canada highway somewhere along the desolate stretch between Marathon and White River in northern Ontario. When he sped down a hill and around a corner too fast, his trailer swung wide into the east-bound lane. It hit me. Seven broken bones (knee, two ribs, four in the face and neck), a damaged lung, one crushed vertebrae and one displaced, broken teeth, severed nerves around an eye, cheek ripped open down to bone, a sprained ankle and a brain injury. I lost consciousness. When I awoke, frozen because all the windows in my pickup were shattered and it was about -20, I was trapped. The dashboard of the vehicle had collapsed on my left leg and it took almost an hour for the Jaws of Life to come and chew me out. A 45-minute ambulance ride to the Marathon hospital, a medical helicopter to Thunder Bay and eventually a medical flight to Winnipeg got me home to a shattered life. It took more than two years to recover. I lost so much… and almost destroyed my family. I wish I could say I learned some enduring life lessons from all the pain, from the lost decade, from the missed opportunities, from the anger, frustration, the limitations, the what ifs…. But I’m not that wise nor can I absorb the subtle nuances that supposedly come from seasons of suffering. I’m simply glad to be alive. And today, ten years on, I rejoice that I am not yet a footnote of...

Read More