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Reflections on my mother - on the eve of Mother’s Day


As some of you may know, my mother was a remarkable woman who did many things that would be defined as 'non-traditional'. Branda was eager to work with her hands, ran a small engine repair shop in Toronto for years and was always eager to return to rural Canada (having grown up in north-western New Brunswick near Edmundston). She then spent her final years working in forests - with a deep desire to be immersed in nature for as long as she possibly could.

The summers I spent at Baker Lake, New Brunswick were a key way I connected with nature and began a life-long love of the forest.

My mother loved to take me fishing in a little stream a short distance from Baker Lake called the North Branch (it may have a more official name, but that's what we called it). It was the kind of stream that we would walk through with our fishing poles looking for brook trout that would hide out in the outcroppings of soil and tree roots. It's where I learned to fish from my mother.

When my mother passed away in 2007, I returned to the forest of my childhood (that had been clearcut a few years earlier) and later drove out to the North Branch stream which flooded me with memories of those days spent knee-deep in water with my mother. It reconnected me intimately to the remaining forest and the clear cold water of those childhood summer days.

With Mother's Day on the horizon, I am transported back to this special place. The government's recent decision to change the Fisheries Act worries me deeply. Streams like the North Branch may be protected from certain types of industrial development, but water that feeds it may not be protected if they don't have fish in them.  I'm nervous that these changes will have a huge impact on the quality of the water in the North Branch and other rivers that so many of us fished in our childhoods.

We have to see these areas as fully operating ecosystems. You can't just protect the places where fish live - you need to protect all the things that directly impact it. This includes the fish-free brooks and runoff streams. These changes to the laws of Canada assume that the world consists of isolated pieces of nature - and not the mutually dependant systems that they are.

For those of you whose mothers are only an email away, I encourage you to consider giving your mother the gift of wilderness by using our tribute donation page. Your mother may not have been the kind of person who took you fishing - but she probably taught you the lesson of respect for others and for the natural world around you.

As I think of my nieces, my friends' children and all those who will learn to connect to nature in future generations, I feel a desperate need to ensure that these magical experiences are not historic memories. I may not do much fishing these days, but the nature-ethic I learned is something I use every day. As I think of my mother Branda in the coming days - I will work even harder to make sure that what she taught me wasn't in vain.

Je t'aime maman. Je n'oublierai pas.