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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Go to Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester at to read the first pages of this book and/or to purchase it. Copies also available from the author.


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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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be perused and/or purchased by going to the title and author name at

For other articles and stories about them that Tanya wrote over the years you can go to


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. 


In the leaves for Salt Spring

March 9, 2014

This is really just a continuation of my other blog on WordPress which you can go to at  I changed my email address and that led to creating a new blog site but, as on the writingsmall site, this blog is about recording the articles, reviews, poetry, fiction and even a play that I have had published in a variety publications over a number of decades. It will also contain a number of articles written by and about me as a tea leaf reader, tarot reader and psychic channel/medium. I also have published four books but this blog is more about the articles than my longer works.As far as I know, I am the only one who has worked at both for many years. Nowadays, I do many more psychic readings than I do freelance writing but I still keep my hand in it.

The following article is about something that I did every year for several years when I lived on Salt Spring Island, BC; annually predicting aspects of the island’s future:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

January 5, 2000

In the leaves for Salt Spring

by Gail Sjuberg

Tanya Lester and I are at Treasured Spirit talking about prediction for the new year.

Susan Cassidy and Catherine Lily-Hooper are busy preparing for the shop’s Millennium Eve Seers’ Gala, making festive party hats and testing out the warm cranberry juice they hope to serve at the shop’s two-day, year end event.

Everyone’s vision is beamed on the future as Lester tells me about astrologer Bryan Gray’s reading for Salt Spring (See related story.)

Suddenly she says, “Should I do a teacup reading for Salt Spring?”

Why not, we agree.

She fixes herself another cup of tea, and when it’s finished she inverts the cup onto the saucer, turns it the requisite three times and, with her left hand on the cup, meditates on our island home for about a minute.

With characteristic openess, Lester speculates she might be going out on a limb here: this is her first reading of a place rather than a person.

But when she peers at the leaves, there’s no doubt that what she sees relates to Salt Spring.

Lester describes new or changed buildings, a healthy year for established businesses and continuing conflict surrounding the Texada Land Corporation.

The first thing Lester sees is a new castle-like structure — or at least a stone building — “that almost has a feeling of a monastery.” It appears to be set in the Mount Maxwell area.

The image is “as positive as the stone it’s built out of,” she says.

Her focus then shifts to downtown Ganges, where she sees some cosmetic changes to Thrifty’s

and the nearby area, including some different landscaping, and a new car dealer or car rental outlet.

She also seems more changes to the Ganges Village Market centre and that end of town.

A seniors housing complext will get the green light, Lester says, although it might not be constructed on the property first imagined.

A new dock — or maybe an old one that falls apart and needs rebuilding — gleams from the water. It could be a private or a public structural problems with a dock are suspected by anyone, the owners would be advised to get on with fixing them.

Lester sees only one specific tragedy: a workplace injury or possible work-related death.

Salt Spring Islanders “who know how to do things the right way ” in running a business will make a fair bit of money this year,she predicts. “For established businesses on this island, it will be a good year.”

Some of that money could be made from involvement in foreign or off-island ventures. People thinking of investing in new projects should look to Vancouver Island north of Victoria, not the province’s capital city of Vancouver.

I’m interested in how the Texada lands saga might unfold, so she looks for the answer in the cup.

“For the next six months, it will like spinning wheels as far as what the environmentalists want,” she says. “They will feel like there is nobody listening.”

After the first six months, Texada may try to develop some of the lands, but will run into hassles with bylaws and regulations.

Overall, Lester has a solid sense of “people in groups” on Salt Spring being active and involved in their community. She also sees joining groups as providing a measure of security for people in an uncertain time.


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Tanya Lester’s published books are Dreams & Tricksters, Women Rights/Writes, Friends I Never Knew and Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader. To take a look at the first few pages and to purchase Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader go to the title and author name at


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.