My response to the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School:

Opinion: Time to set aside the fantasy version of who we are

And time to get to work

Jun 13, 2021 7:00 AM By: Pauline Le Bel / Contributor

A memorial for the 215 children at Parliament Hill in Ottawa saw hundreds of little shoes and teddy bears to remember the stolen children.Colette Coughlin Photo

It seems our country is finally ready to have the difficult conversation. To set aside our fantasy version of who we are. Like many others, the discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children on the site of the Kamloops (Tk’emlups) residential school left me sad and angry.

When my daughter was five years old, I used to accompany her on the 10-minute walk, across a busy street, to the bus that took her to kindergarten. I would meet her off the bus a few hours later. One day, she wasn’t on the bus. The bus driver looked as worried as I felt. I ran home and called the school. She wasn’t there. My story has a happy ending. But if you magnify a thousand times the fear and guilt I experienced, you will begin to taste what it was like for many Indigenous parents who went to the residential school to get their children and were told they weren’t there.

The federal government has known about the horrors of residential schools since 1907 when Dr. Peter Bryce, a medical health officer reported to the Department of  Indian Affairs, calling the schools “a breeding ground for illness.” He was shocked by the overcrowding, poor nutrition, hard physical labour, the numerous deaths, and healthy children sleeping next to children with tuberculosis. He was given the boot. Why? Because the Indian Act was designed to dispossess Indigenous people of their lands, in order to facilitate the exploitation of their forests, waters and mountains. The fewer Indigenous people, the easier to accomplish this colonial quest. Dr. Bryce later published his findings in the 1920s in the pamphlet, “A National Crime.”

Four years ago, I began a reconciliation initiative on the island with the support of the Bowen Island Arts Council and the Bowen Island Library. The purpose of “Knowing Our Place” was to educate ourselves about our true history with Indigenous People, and to work toward respectful, mutually enhancing relationship. Things slowed down a bit because of the pandemic, although we did celebrate last June 21st with Squamish Nation Elders, the blessing of the sign with the Squamish Nation name for the island, Nexwlélexwm.

I won’t diminish the importance of our events, workshops and the book club; but they were baby steps. It’s time to grow up and take some big steps. Reconciliation needs to include putting back what was taken away and there was plenty taken away. Language, culture, rights, governance, health, land, education, and most egregiously, the children.

What can we do?

Educate ourselves. If you have a strong stomach, read the TRC – Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, 2015. The commission was funded by the residential school survivors, using one third of their financial settlement. It took me months to get through the report – five pages a day – the tears kept getting in the way. An entire chapter talks about missing children and unmarked graves. Read the 94 Calls to Action. After six years, only eight of these Calls to Action have been addressed. Read books by Indigenous authors; the library has a list. Or ask me for one.

Watch the NFB Film “We Were Children.” Go to – Aboriginal Peoples Television Network – and see the world through their eyes. Go to the Reconciliation Canada Facebook Page and watch the videos which were recorded a few days ago with Chief Robert Joseph, his daughters, Karen and Shelley, and guests. These videos helped me channel my anger and grief:

Listen to CBC Radio Cross Country Check Up, recorded June 6:

Make a donation: Indian Reservation School Survivors Society:

First Nations Child and Family Caring Society:

Contact Patrick Weiler, our Member of Parliament: 604-913-2660; Thank him for voting yes to Jagmeet Singh’s non-binding motion to drop a pair of court fights involving First Nations children. Tell him you want the federal government to stop spending your tax dollars in this way. Tell him you want the government to fund investigations on all residential school sites for unmarked graves, and to allow each nation to take charge of the proceedings. These children need to be returned to their homes for proper burial. Tell him you want the same quality of water, housing and education for Indigenous people.

Demand of all levels of government (including our municipal government) that they implement UNDRIP – the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – adopted in 2007 – and the Calls to Action of the TRC.

If you are a member of a church that ran these schools, pressure them to release records of the children so they can be identified.

Reconciliation is a long, ongoing process. It’s messy and uncomfortable. We are bound to make mistakes, but we must keep going. It’s up to us to acknowledge our dark history and our dark present so the future will be brighter for everyone.

May the words of Chief Robert Joseph, hereditary chief of the Gwawaenuk First Nation, motivate you as they have motivated me: “Little ones, we see you, we feel you.” You have “triggered us to think differently about who we are as Canadians, as human beings.” You “will help to transform this country.” You “are giving us an opportunity to change.”

For immediate assistance to those who may need it, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

June 2021 project: a two-minute video of my poem about finding a mate for a 150 year-old Chestnut Tree in Davies Orchard on Bowen Island:

On June 21st, 2020, as part of my Knowing Our Place reconciliation initiative, and in collaboration with the Bowen Island Library and the Bowen Island Arts Council, a sign with the Squamish Nation name for the island, Nexwlélexwm, was unveiled in Snug Cove. Here is a short documentary on the meaning of the event, which includes highlights of the sign blessing ceremony.   


Brand New Book and Book Tour

Whale in the Door

                   I am thrilled to announce my new book:

     Whale in the Door: A Community Unites to Protect BC’s Howe Sound

Pauline Le Bel, a resident of Howe Sound, embarks on a journey of discovery to find out what is special about the Sound, its wild nature and its people, to witness the cultural and spiritual revivals taking place. Her research, interviews, and travels compel her to abandon antiquated ideas about wilderness and community, and to arrive at a new appreciation for the genius of her home.

“Thanks for thinking of using our legend and my words to put it into a modern context.”—Chris Lewis, Councillor & Spokesperson, Squamish Nation

“This is a story that was begging to be told, and Le Bel tells it in a unique voice that ranges from mystical through scientific to activist.”—Dr. Julie Gardner, Adjunct Professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC

“I loved it! It is inspirational. I’ve learned so much.” — Robert J Balantyne, Chair, Board of Directors, BC Spaces for Nature

Launches, readings, workshops and signings:


January 26, February 16 , Knowing Our Place Book Club, Bowen Island

February 24, Galiano Literary Festival

March 1, Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, screening Sound Water, a documentary about Howe Sound in which I am featured.


March 3, Knowing Our Place Book Club, Bowen Island

April 12, Whale in the Door Reading, Salt Spring Island Library

April 15, Whale in the Door Reading, Galiano Island Library

May 5, Workshop, Creative Non-Fiction Collective Conference, University of Victoria, Toronto: Building Bridges, Respecting Boundaries: Narrative and the Relationship Between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians

June 13, Reading Whistler Public Library

June 21, Knowing Our Place celebrating National Aboriginal Day, Bowen Island



October 1st, Gallery at Artisan Square , Bowen Island 3-5 pm,  Chris Corrigan,host

October 24, Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, Sechelt, 7 pm,  Ric Careless, host

October 26, North Vancouver Museum and Archives, 5-7 pm

November 1, Gabriola Island Library, 1-3 pm

November 2, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo

November 3, Bolen Books, Victoria, 7-8:30 pm, Mark Leiren-Young, host

November 9, Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
November 27, 10 am, SKY, Bowen Island
April 15, 2018 3 pm. Galiano Island Public Library
FOR A SIGNED COPY, EMAIL ME at songspinner(at) shaw(dot)ca


A New Photo:

My friend, Virginia, book designer and photographer, brought me outdoors for a photo shoot. Here is my favourite:

photo Pauline Le Bel



April 22 –  workshop at the Earth Day Celebration 
Royal BC Museum Victoria, BC
 April 30 – The Blanket Exercise, part of my Knowing Our Place: A Reconciliation Initiative on Bowen Island, a series of cultural and educational events to learn the true nature of our historical and contemporary relationship with
Indigenous People. Gallery at Artisan Square 2-6 pm
May 12-13Becoming Intimate with the Earth workshop– Nanaimo, BC
To register: www,
May 26 – Knowing Our Place: Building Bridges Through Art. Squamish Nation storytellers and artists at the Gallery at Artisan Square on Bowen Island. 7:30 p.m.
July 1 – Canada Day celebrations at Crippen Park, Bowen Island. Noon – 3 p.m. Come to the Reconciliation Booth to talk about how we can move forward.
August 13 – launch of my first book of poems, They Ask Me Why I Sing So Loud,
published by Collins Foundation Press. Rustique Bistro, Bowen Island 3 – 5 pm.
Music, refreshments and a reading from the book
September 17 – Knowing Our Place: a Cultural Tour of The Squamish Estuary
October 1 – launch Whale in the Door: Protecting Howe Sound
published by Caitlin Press. The Art Gallery at Artisan Square 3 – 5 p.m.



Writing, writing and more writing….



Becoming Intimate with the Earth workshop, Bowen Island 10 am – 4 pm,

Information and Registration:


I will be reading from my book, Becoming Intimate with the Earth, as part of the Creative Non Fiction Collective Conference in Victoria at the Bard and Banker at 3 PM

Admission Free


I will be reading from my book, Becoming Intimate with the Earth, at the West Vancouver Library, 7 – 8:30 PM Admission Free

MAY 9 


10 am – 4 pm, VanDusen Garden, Information and Registration:

May 23


10 am – 4 pm, Friends House, Information and Registration:

June 4 – 7 Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization

I will be a presenter at this conference in California




Becoming Intimate with the Earth workshop

Imagine spending a day at the exquisite VanDusen Garden, to immerse yourself in Earth’s beauty and generosity, and to experience how you are embraced by, and embedded in, the natural world. Pauline Le Bel’s workshop, Becoming Intimate with the Earth, invites you to do just that. With wisdom, song, and poetry you will be guided through the Ways of Intimacy described in her book of the same title: The Ways of Wonder, Emptiness, Imagining, Transformation, and Community. We will move through and out of the old stories that told us we were separate, independent, isolated beings, and breathe in the new stories – scientific, cultural, and economic – that illuminate our interdependence and responsibility to all life.

VanDusen Garden

 Date:  Sat September 20, 2014 Time:  10:00 – 4:00   Cost: $65. Includes Garden admission fee. Please bring your lunch.  Refreshments are included. Location:  VanDusen Botanical Gardens, Cedar Room, 5251 Oak St.

To register, contact:  250-220-460l,,

November 1 – Victoria

Becoming Intimate with the Earth workshop

Sponsored by Earth Literacies

Description: We have a new sacred narrative for the world – a scientific cosmology that redefines the role of humans and offers hope in these challenging times. Pauline Le Bel, in her book, Becoming Intimate with the Earth, offers powerful ways to live inside that story. With wisdom, wit, and poetry, she will guide workshop participants through the Ways of Intimacy described in her book: Wonder, Emptiness, Imagining, Transformation, and Community.  There will be many opportunities for group interaction as we look at the stories that have led to our isolation and separation from the natural world, and unwrap the new stories – scientific, cultural, economic, environmental – that demonstrate how intimately we are connected to everything in the Universe. The workshop includes storytelling, Intimacy Practices, and one or two of Pauline’s Earth-honouring songs

Date:  Sat November 1, 2014
 Time:  9:30 – 3:30
 Cost:  $65. Please bring your lunch.  Refreshments included

Location:  Friends Meeting House, 1831 Fern Street

To register, contact:  250-220-460l,,

 April 10 – Vancouver – Pauline will read from her book, Becoming Intimate with the Earth, at Banyen Books. Free Event. Thursday, April 10 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm


January – March – Pauline will complete the final draft of her book, Becoming Intimate with the Earth, to be published later this year by Collins Foundation Press. (more info about book launch to come)

February 10 – 3 PM – Pauline will sing with a valentine flavour at the Bowen Court Open House, with guitarist, Teun Schut, and wild cellist, Corbin Keep.

March 8 – 7 PM – Telling a Better Story –  Pauline is joined by biologist, Paul Fast, for an interactive presentation that takes the audience on a fascinating evolutionary journey. Through poetry, song, and story they present the scientific creation story of the birth and evolution of the Universe, a story that offers us a bigger picture of who we are and why we are here. This will be followed by a Storytelling workshop. The Gallery at Artisan Square, Bowen Island. Admission by donation. All proceeds to the David Suzuki Foundation.

September 27 – 7 PM – Literary Café – Pauline will join other local writers to read her poems and sing a song or two. At the Gallery at Artisan Square. Admission by donation.

October 15 – Publishing date for Pauline’s new book, Becoming Intimate with the Earth.

October 27 – 1:30 – 3:30 PM – Becoming Intimate with the Earth book launch. Pauline will be reading from her new book published by Collins Foundation Press. At The Left Bank Bistro on Bowen Island. Music. Refreshments served. All welcome. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

December 21 – 7 PM – Winter Solstice Concert with Pauline and her many musical friends. Cates Hill Chapel. (more info to come)


January 28 – An evening in Paris– Pauline is featured in this French Cabaret, a fundraiser for Island Pacific School. Tix $35 at IPS and PhoenixMarch – Science, Wisdom and the Future  – Pauline’s chapter, “Sing Two Songs and Call Me in the Morning” on the science of music is included in this book, published by Collins Foundation Press. 3 – Elder College, Capilano University – Telling a Better Story – Pauline is joined by biologist, Paul Fast, for an hour-long interactive presentation that takes the audience on a fascinating evolutionary journey. Through poetry, song, and story they tell the scientific creation story of the birth and evolution of the Universe, a story that offers us a deeper understanding of the role of humans, inspires respect for the natural world, and motivates us to take action so that future generations may thrive on a flourishing Earth. The presentation is part of a six-part series, Issues & Ideas, sponsored by the David Suzuki Elders. For information and to register: 7 – 5:00 pm – Interview with David Essel – Pauline, a contributing author in the book, “Science, Wisdom and the Future” will be interviewed about the science of song. How do lyrics and music move us emotionally, intellectually and inspire us to create a new, dynamic life? How can we create the life we desire through the use of music and song? David Essel ALIVE! Transformational Talk Radio on XM Satellite 168 is also Streaming Live Online (no subscription needed) at – December – Pauline will be working on her book, Becoming Intimate With The Earth  to be published in spring 2013 by Collins Foundation Press. Check back later for more details.December 21 – Pauline will perform her Song for the Winter Solstice and read from her novel, The Song Spinner at a fundraiser for the Bowen Island Community Hall. Cates Chapel.WHAT HAPPENED IN 2011

January 26- March 2 – 7:30 – 9:00 pm. Vocal Playshop – Pauline will be giving a series of 6 vocal classes for all levels of singers. The classes focus on playful sound making, range, resonance and interpretation in a non-traditional way to increase confidence and expressiveness no matter what genre of music. Maximum 10. Beginners welcome. Location: Bowen Court Hall 1070 Miller Rd. For information and to register,

February/March – Pauline is in the studio recording her amusing songs for her 5th CD, DEEP FUN – Songs about Science, Food and Sex. She is accompanied by cellist, Corbin Keep; guitarist, Teun Schut; and bassist Susanna Braund, with Pauline on keyboards. The CD will be available in May

May/June – Pauline is planning a concert tour of Vancouver/Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands to promote her new CD. She will also be offering vocal playshops. Visit her blog for more information

May 5 – Vocal Playshop – for singers at all levels. Beginners welcome. 7-10 p.m. The Gallery at Artisan Square, Bowen Island. Adults – $35; Seniors – $30. For information and to register email:

May 7 – Deep Fun Concert – Pauline performs her amusing songs about science, food and sex at The Gallery at Artisan Square, Bowen Island. For information and reservations email:

May 12 – Deep Fun – Pauline will perform her amusing songs about science, food and sex at the Silk Purse in West Vancouver. 10:30 a.m. For information and reservation:

May 20 – Deep Fun Concert – Salt Spring Island. Please contact Samantha Sanderson

June 15 – Deep Fun Concert – Courtenay, BC. Please contact Nancy Morrison

June 25 – Vocal playshop at “Human Be Herd” – an Equine Facilitated Personal Development workshop at Gavin Lake Forestry Centre, near Williams Lake BC. For more information, check the website: or email Thea Fast at

July 9 – Write on Bowen! Gala Pauline will read from her book of short stories, I Sang for My Father: a Memoir. Cates Hill Chapel. 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Bowen Island Arts Council. For tickets and more information:

October 2 – Whidbey Island. Unitarian Universalist Church Pauline will present her musical poetic telling of the scientific creation myth with the congregation making the sounds of the Universe.

October 18 – Vocal Gym. Pauline’s popular vocal class for all levels of singers. The Gallery on Bowen Island 7-9 pm. For information:

November 15 – Breath, Sound and Movement – for singers and non-singers. The Gallery on Bowen Island 7-9 pm. For information:

November 24 – Suzuki Elders Forum. Pauline will open and close the forum with song. Vancouver Public Library – Central Branch

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *