Parents visit Coronach School

May 7, 2014

It is very important for parents to be familiar with where their children go to school. I would like to think that I decided to write this article to support parents connecting with their children’s school but I am also sure that it was also due to the lack of stories to cover in a small community and the need to fill a newspaper. Yet this is the kind of story that should regularly be covered by the media.

Here it is:

Borderland Reporter

March 23, 1983

Parents visit Coronach School

by Tanya Lester

About 75 parents took advantage of the Coronach School visitation day, last Wednesday, run during the province’s Education Week. Throughout the day, parents observed teachers giving lessons in the classrooms and watched and participated in various class presentations.

For example, some parents participated in a grade 12 physics experiment in which work and power was tested. Members of the public were asked to climb up a ladder while their speed was timed. The students then used physics laws and formulas to calculate the work and power level reached by each participant.

Maureen Shelstad’s grade 6 students presented story recitals to the parents visiting their classroom. The exercise seemed to be a particularly good one for the students as public speaking and the nervousness that comes with it is an aspect of life many of them will have to deal with during the rest of their school years and into adulthood.

Following a “Drinking and Driving” film presentation by Constable A. Davidson, several future drivers of Coronach’s roadways received their driver education certificates handed out by the constable and Peter Saher, the school’s principal.

Parents were also invited to listen to a taped speech by Father Larre on the topic of why students rebel against society. 

For the Education Day celebrations, the school’s walls were filled with displays that ranged from St. Patrick’s Day art tributes to short essays to maps of Canada’s provinces to sea creatures.

One display was just the type to catch a news editor’s eye. It consisted of several editorials. The beginning sentences of the editorials made statements including: “I think there should be trails for kids with motorbikes”; “Some people litter. It think it’s disgusting to have garbage lying around”; and “I’m sick and tired of our school playground mud!”

It just goes to show that young people can articulate valid opinions, too. Mr. Saher would agree. He felt the day was in many ways a success because the students had been very involved in presenting their parents with the various aspects involved in the makings of a school.


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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased by going to the title and author name at, where you can also read the first pages of the book. You can also purchase a copy of the book from me.


Northern seal a first at centre

May 6, 2014

I love watching PBS and I love watching Hope for Wildlife on PBS. Hope for Wildlife is a center in Nova Scotia where wounded wild animals are rehabilitated and returned to nature. The philosophy and ethics behind any of these kinds of centers is based on the fact that the more that we, as humans, infringe on the natural habitat of other animals, the more we either directly or indirectly are responsible for injuries that they would not have suffered in the past. For that reason, it is our responsibility to help heal and return to nature.

The following is a story about a similar center on Salt Spring Island, BC, where I lived for 16 years. When we first moved to Salt Spring Island, my son, Luke, who was then 12 year old, and I volunteered for a short time in a shop that sold products in financial support of the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre. 

By the way, you might notice that my recent posts have been quite short. In Cherryville, where I am currently housesitting, as it always was for me on Salt Spring Island, WiFi for the Internet is not available. What we do in these rural communities is plug a cord into our computers in order to get the Internet working. This does not work quite like WiFi, though. I do not watch Netflicks here because there are too many pauses in the movie due to the slower speed of this type of Internet connection. Also, spending a lot of time inputting a long article into my blog post is impossible as it takes way, way,way too long to save it.

So here is another short post:

The Gulf Islands Driftwood

February 23, 2000

Northern seal a first at centre

by Tanya Lester

It could be from anywhere as far west as Japan and as far south as California, but Jeff Lederman of the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre (IWNCC) thinks their first northern fur seal guest came from the Alusian Islands in Alaska.

The northern fur seal which is actually a miniature sea lion, arrived a IWNCC on February 8 after being rescued from Kelsey Bay in Sayward on Vancouver Island. It was being harassed by people at a fish farm who often kill sea lions and other animals preying on fish, even though it is illegal to do so, said Lederman.

The woman who saved it said the sea lion was in the same part of the water for three days.

Lederman said that at 15 poinds the seal is at 50 per cent of its body weight. Like all sea lions, it walks around on its flippers and is “adorable,” according to Lederman, with a big head and big flippers attached to an emaciated body covered in soft, grey fur.

Since its arrival, IWNCC volunteers have been struggling to keep it alive with five tube feedings of fish formula each day, Lederman said.

It is living in the indoor intensive care ward and being given antibiotics as well as homeopathic remedies for dehydration, pneumonia, bowel problems and flukes, a body parasite in the tapeworm family, according to Lederman.

Her said the northern fur seal will appear close to death one day but will be improved enough to climb the walls on the next day. Lederman said the sea lion likes to bite when he is feeling better.

Northern sea lions can live in the water for months, said Lederman. They swim and sleep in the water with 75 per cent of them going to the Alusian Islands to breed each June.

The IWNCC has had an 80 per cent survival rate with harbour seals, which are much more common residents. Other animals recently rehabilitated include three ducks still left over from the last canola oil spill, two bald eagles, a great blue heron and a gull.


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MP runs gas station

May 4, 2014

On small newspapers, a journalist can advance quickly. In the 1980s, anyway, young journalists often ‘cut their teeth’ on rural newspapers and quickly went from being a reporter to editing and then on to the urban newspapers where their speed of promotion usually slowed down. 

When I began work at The Gravelbourg Gazettethe newspaper’s publisher owned another newspaper further south in Saskatchewan in  the beautiful rolling hills,near the United States border, known as the badlands. In a matter of months, that newspaper’s editor got a job in Saskatoon so I was ‘kicked upstairs’ to The Borderland Reporter editorship. Of course, I continued to write virtually all the articles besides doing some extra duties as editor but now I did it for a different newspaper although my boss remained the same.

This is how I came to write stories, including the following story, for The Borderland Reporter. It is a story that could have been entitled “Trust a Conservative to Protest Change”. Read on:

The Borderland Reporter

February 16, 1983

MP runs gas station

by Tanya Lester

Len Gustafson, Member of Parliament (MP) for Assiniboia, is one of 32 Conservative MPs involved in running an Ottawa station which serves gas in gallons rather than litres.

Operating the gas station on the imperial measurement system is a Conservative protest against the Liberal government’s method of enforcing metric conversion. “What we are opposed to is the fact that the government is forcing people to change to metric, Mr. Gustafson said.

Mr. Gustafson said the Conservative MP’s are not advocating a “roll back to gallons” although he pointed out there is some move away from litres and back to gallons in the United States.

The MP believes the government should “let those change who want to and allow the country to operate under both measurement methods”. He cited a case where a gas stations owner in Tribune, Saskatchewan had to close his station, the only one in town, because he could not afford to pay the $2500 to convert the gas pumps. A government inspector had told him it was mandatory to make the change.

Mr. Gustafson felt the Liberal government has reversed its original decision to allow people to make the change to metric on a voluntary basis without bringing their intentions to Parliament where the issue could have been debated.

To operate on both measurement systems in the world market does not pose a problem for large international dealers as to make the conversion between what a number of bushels would work out to in tonnes, for example, can be simply done with a chart, Mr. Gustafson said. 

The MP pointed out although the government has compelled grain elevators in the West to change the metric system, when the grain reaches the Lakehead it is still referred to in bushels.

The MP’s gas station is located in Carleton, 20 miles from Ottawa, and Mr. Gustafson said they already received $10,000 in donations which would be used in the event that the Liberal government takes them to court for breaking the law. One Winnipeg man who is opposed to the effects the metric switch would have on his lumber business contributed a $1,000 cheque, Mr. Gustafson said.


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Ferland saves Pioneer

May 2, 2014 

It is moving into that time of year when one of the best things that anyone can do for themselves in Canada is to drive across the glorious golden Canadian prairies. Punctuated with small and sometimes tiny Prairie communities, these towns and villages are like a home without a fireplace if they do not have at least one grain elevator. 

The grain elevator stands, like a lighthouse on the ocean, as a sentinel, guiding the weary traveller to a much needed gas and toilet break. The first grain was built in Manitoba in 1879 and by 1933 there were 5758 dotting the prairie landscape. Used for storing grain before being shipped on freight trains to sell, grain elevators and the number of them along the railway in each community indicated the size and prosperity of a community. 

With the constant decrease of rail lines has come the near-demise of grain elevators. Although many have been demolished, heritage groups on the Canadian prairies have been working to maintain some of these landmarks. This has resulted in saving some of the elevators. In Inglis, Manitoba, due to federal government support, the five elevators there have been declared a national historic site.

In the 1980s, I wrote an article about the people of the tiny Ferland, Saskatchewan village working together to save the grain elevator there:

Gravelbourg Gazette

January 12, 1983

Ferland saves Pioneer

by Tanya Lester

The Pioneer Grain Elevator in Ferland is still in operation due to the lobbying work done by the Ferland Elevator Retention Group.

Aime Fournier, the group’s president, said now that the Pioneer Elevator is continuing to operate in the town, there will be further pressure to increase the elevator’s grain handling to its 500,000 or 750,000 bushel capacity.

Mr. Fournier said the elevator is presently losing a third of its business because of inadequate grain storage facilities. He said younger farmers, who cannot afford to wait for grain sales, have been hauling their grain to other towns when there is no room at the Ferland elevator. 

Pioneer officials claim plans to increase the number of grain bins will get underway in the spring, Mr. Fournier said.

Originally, the Ferland Elevator Retention Group formed when Pioneer was planning to close the elevator in the town. “If we would have lost the elevator, then we would have lost the town,” Mr. Fournier said.

If the elevator had closed, the businesses in town would have lost income from the farmers. The town would have also lost the elevator taxes. Mr. Fournier and others did not want to lose the town where they were born and raised.

With the signatures of 39 farmers indicating their wishes to keep the elevator open, the Ferland Elevator Retention Group began talking with Pioneer officials.

Mr. Fournier said they told the officials if the elevator was closed, Ferland area farmers would boycott Pioneer elevators in any other town to which they would be forced to haul.

Mr. Fournier talked with Otto Lang, Pioneer vice-chair and finally told the president of Pioneer that he had a month to make a decision concerning the fate of the elevator. The farmers had already approached Cargill and N.M. Patterson to build an elevator in the town.

Finally, in February 1981, Pioneer decided to build a new elevator leg and move two elevators together to improve the grain storage capacity. New scales also added to the improvements. 

The “new” Pioneer elevator opened a year ago in February while the official opening was held in June. After seeing the elevator in operation for a year, Mr. Fournier said although improvements are still needed, it is “300 per cent better than what we had before.”


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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester is available on where you can read the first few pages and/or purchase it. You can also buy the book from the author when she is in your community.

Cabinet minister at College

April 27, 2014

Sometimes the story that you think will give you an enormous amount of interesting copy (read: a long newspaper article that will rivet the reader’s attention) turns out to be next to nothing. You find that you have to force the words out. Why not just cancel writing the article? In some cases the subject of the story is too important or influential. The editor and the public expects a story on the person to appear in the newspaper. 

When I worked on the Gravelbourg Gazette in the 1980s, the sister of then Premier Grant Devine’s wife lived in the constituency. This meant high level members of the Conservative government came to speak in our ‘one horse’ town including the Premier himself (but that is another story that one day will be featured in this blog if I can find the newspaper clipping). 

The following story is the result of my struggling to make interesting the visit of a mere cabinet minister:

Gravelbourg Gazette

November 16, 1982

Cabinet minister at College

by Tanya Lester

College Mathieu students had the rare opportunity to question a provincial cabinet minister last Tuesday.

Gordon Currie, the Minister of Education, offered to answer students’ questions for a brief period after he had toured the College throughout the morning and before he went for lunch at the school’s dining area.

Responding to questioning, Mr. Currie explained he had attended a small private school called Notre Dame at Wilcox, Saskatchewan when he was a boy. He said he knew, therefore, about students having to make their beds and getting along without “Mommy and Daddy” which would be the case at College Mathieu.

Mr. Currie said he only became involved in politics when the last provincial election was called and ran in the Regina-Wascana constituency. He had been working in a school before the election was called.

The cabinet minister said in his five and a half months as Minister of Education, he has found that “the whole scene of education is very broad.” He said education has changed its perspective from the days when people only received education until graduation. Today, he believes “education is meaningful from birth until death.”

Mr. Currie said that bilingualism is becoming an important part of English specking schools, also.

When questioned concerning the number of students at the College and if the school could remain functionable, Mr. Currie said he would have to check with College board members.

However, he said he did not know if the 83 students attending the College should be increased to “93 or 103” to make the school’s operation feasible. He hoped the government would not get too caught up in numbers when dealing with education issues.

                                                                                          — END– 

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Some memories of a professional patient

March 23, 2014

Over a decade, in the 1980s and 1990s, I had the joy to work with older people (at 58 years old I am now older than some of the youngest with whom I worked but they oldest were in their 80s) who were writing their life stories in workshop settings at Age & Opportunity Centres, Creative Retirement and at the University of Winnipeg Continuing Education in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The participants’ stories were as varied as the people who attended the workshops were. They developed wonderful bonds with each other as they shared parts of their lives with each other that, in some cases, their longtime neighbours, friends and even family members did not know about. The stories sometimes revealed very private parts of their lives.

More than one of them confided in me that there were some things too personal for them to reveal in the workshops or ultimately to their family members who were often their inspiration in writing their life stories. One of these women allowed me to interview her about a secret side of her life after I told her that I would change her name when writing the article for published. This is it:

Seniors Today

May 10, 1989

Some memories of a professional patient

by Tanya Lester

After people have done some living, they often like to get together and talk about life as they once knew it.

Growing up, getting married and raising a family are discussed with pride and sometimes regret. Stories are swapped of work and pleasurable pastimes.

Memories — both happy and tragic — of the war years and of the depression are exchanged. Tears sometimes come easily but so does laughter.

These are the golden years — or so they should be.

Marian (I’ll call her) is no exception when it comes to reminiscing about the good times. Her face lights up as she brings out old photographs of her children after lunch in her downtown Winnipeg apartment.

In her 60s, Marian is an attractive, intelligent woman who continues to educate herself by reading and attending a variety of courses. Formerly a teach, she babysits to supplement her CPP cheques. She is active in seniors’ groups and enjoys the company of her peers.

Yet Marian has memories she hesitates to share with acquaintances and even family members. They are life experiences older people sometimes who rather no discuss. But she realizes someone has to start talking about the unsavory aspects of society if it is ever to get better for future generations. 

Marian began her 25 year stint at being what she refers to as a “professional patient” when her children were still young. Feeling very low, she had been dragging herself around for days when she finally got down onto her knees and fervently prayed to God for held. Suddenly, the room appeared to light up. Her energy returned and she was able to once again handle the many chores involved in raising a large family.

Then, Marian believes she made a mistake which changed the course of the next two and a half decades of her life. She told her doctor about her seemingly miraculous experiences. He referred her to a psychiatrist.

For the next 16 years, Marian saw a number of psychiatrists who preferred to hand out pills rather than talk to her about her problems. To say that they men were insensitive to their patients’ needs and to basic human dignity is an understatement.

“Sometimes he’d ( a psychiatrist) even just beckoned me (into her office) with his finger: Papa Freud,” Marian remembered with disgust.

After the appointments every three months (which lasted all of 15 minutes each), to refill her prescription for anti-depressants, Marian would go back to her home in rural Manitoba and begin the long wait until the next one. She always hoped something would happen during the next appointment that might change things for the better. Nothing ever changed. Her life had come to a dead end.

At the same time, Marian was enduring an abusive relationship with her husband. Marian came to believe, based on religious preachings, that suffering was a necessary part of Christian life. “That I must bear (my husband’s abuse) as a martyr,” she said. “It was God polishing up my life (for heaven).”

She felt, on the other hand, if she became a better person, her husband would no longer abuse her. She strived to become this “Jesus person” but always seemed to fall short. 

Not surprisingly, Marian continued to reoccurringly sink into depression. Yet even in this aspect of her life, she felt she should be doing better. “I was ashamed of myself that I was giving into this depression,” she said.

During this time, Marian found a pastoral counsellor to whom she could talk openly. He seriously breached his profession’s code of ethics by developing a sexual liason with her. When she eventually realized she could say “no” to a man, Marian stopped seeing him.

Marian finally received her first good piece of counselling after moving into Winnipeg. It came from a psychiatric nurse. “Doctors can’t do it,” the nurse advised. “Pills can’t do it. You have to do it.”

“Then what am I doing here?”, Marian asked herself and, after 25 years, took back control over her own life. She gradually quit taking medication, signed up for university psychology courses and began to do reading on the mental health system. Among the books she found particularly enlightening was Miriam Greenspan’s A New Approach to Women and Therapy.

Today, Marian is happy with her life but has to get by on a modest income due to her interrupted work record. “We cannot get disability pensions; neither can we get jobs,” she wrote in a piece published in the Winnipeg Free Press on June 29, 1986.

“Emploers want to see good work records on our application forms. Most of us have the good sense not to mention mental illness because there definitely is discrimination regarding the mentally ill.”

Marian believes she learned through her experiences but remains angry with the mental health system for failing so dismally to meet her needs and those of many others. However, she is proud of the fact that one of her daughters has chosen a career in psychiatric nursing after witnessing her mother’s treatment. Even tragic memories from the past can help make a better future.


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Logging halted over Christmas; locals consider options for action.

March 16, 2014

Among my earlier posts on the blog that you access at www., you can find articles that I wrote, while working for the Gulf Islands Driftwood on Salt Spring Island, BC, about the Texada company’s clear cutting of the majestic Douglas firs that caused an eruption of protest from environmentalists on the island during my second year living there.

Here is another story on this subject:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

December 22, 1999

Logging halted over Christmas; locals consider options for action

by Tanya Lester

Non-violent civil disobedience in opposition to Texada’s logging on Mount Tuam recieved a show-of-hands vote from 197 people, with only three opposing the action at a public meeting held last Thursday.

Texada has been logging at a rate of 12 trucks per day, according to Colin Rankin, who also helped facilitate the meeting in Fulford Hall.

Rankin was met with cheers when he announced that Texada would cease logging on Mount Tuam beginning this Wednesday through to January 4.

Salt Spring Islanders opposed to Texada logging shifted out of a crisis response mode and began exploring pro-environmental  activist options during the course of the evening, as suggested by facilitators Rankin and Robert Osborne.

Osborne asked those in attendance to choose one of the options posted on newsprint in black pen on walls around the room. 

These included: lobby for private law regulations, stop logging, work with developers, community logging land swap, fundraising and other ideas.

Each option was discussed before Osborne proposed that people “go shopping for a choice.”

“Stop logging” was chosen by the largest number of people at the meeting. 

“We need to get out on that road,” said Sally Sunshine, who supports direct action by blocking the road the Texada trucks are using to bring logs down from Mount Tuam.

Sunshine suggested “stop clear cutting” would be a more specific term to use instead of “stop logging”.

The second largest group chose “fundraising”. Brad Andrews , who lives on Beaver Point Road decided to go with this group in the belief that there are several ways to help fund the $30 million-plus to purchase the Texada-owned Burgoyne Bay and Mount Tuam lands.

Andrews suggested enlisting the help of a conservancy group and lobbying governments to provide tax breaks to those willing to donate money for the land purchase.

During the meeting, environmental activist Briony Penn announced that the Salt Spring Conservancy has donated $1000 towards the land purchase. She said this has been matched with another $1000 from supportive individuals.

Penn will be spearheading a “rats leaving the sinking ship” campaign this Thursday.

Activists are being asked to dress as rats and take the ferry to Swartz Bay in a media campaign which will draw attention to the fact that the provincial government has not been forthcoming with the $30 million allotted for the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy Fund promised by the year 2000.

Penn said the group, after arriving in Swartz Bay where they expect media attention, will proceed to the B.C Legislature to confront Environment Minister Joan Sawicki.

Out of the “other ideas” group came the idea from Jonathan Grant to erect a cross for every truckload of logs being cut by Texada.

Another person suggested a 500-year plan for logging the land.

A general feeling among those in attendance was that the halt in logging will provide activists time to make choices concerning their protest strategy.

It was announced that people participating in the annual winter solstice walk this Wednesday will focus on the cut trees as they walk up Mount Tuam as well as on the deaths in the plane crash this year and the monastery fire.

Those going on the walk were asked to assemble on Fulford dock at 9 a.m.

Penn said those interested in being part of the “rats leaving the sinking ship” action should meet at Fulford Harour at 1:30 p.m. to take the 2 p.m. ferry to Swartz Bay.

Earlier in the evening, Penn, dressed in a long, green velvet dress accentuated with black gloves, used “her body” in a theatrical presentation of Salt Spring Island pointing out “bumps” that represented the situation of forest preservation on the island…


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You can read the first few pages of Tanya Lester’s book Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by going to the book title and author name where you can also purchase it at www. 


This is blog of the many articles published by and about me over several decades as a freelance writer and a tealeafreader/tarot reader/psychic.