If I hadn't...

If I hadn't...

Posted on April 19 by James Bartleman
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

Some people take up fishing, golf or travel when they reach their mid-sixties and draw their first pension cheques. I fulfilled a long-standing dream and took up writing books. I am now seventy-six and In Seasons of Hope, I look back over seventy years to my early connections to Muskoka, Orillia and the Chippewas of Rama First Nation. I move on to my thirty-five years as a Canadian diplomat foreign policy adviser to the prime minister. I finish up with my time as Ontario’s first Aboriginal lieutenant governor. People like looking at photos and so the book is filled with them. People like good causes and hence I am donating my royalties to Frontier College.

People like reading stories and for that reason I have written much of the book in that form. Some are brief vignettes, others are based on diary entries and family trees, and still others are full-fledged accounts of developments that shaped the latter part of the twentieth century.  Some are stories of coming of age, adventure, encounters with great men and women, accomplishment, and failure. Others bear witness to Third World misery, First World wealth, international terrorism, great loss of life, civil war, heroism, cynicism, generosity, and meanness.
Altogether they trace my unlikely journey from a tent in the Muskoka village of Port Carling in the 1940s to the vice-regal suite as Ontario’s 27th lieutenant governor at Queen’s Park a half century later and beyond.

They demonstrate that my life was largely shaped by chance. If I hadn’t lived for a time near a dump with a supply of comic books, learned to read at an early age, and met a benefactor who sent me to university, perhaps I would never have left my village. If I hadn’t sought shelter from the cold in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on December 6, 1964 as a backpacker, and listened to a sermon by Reverend Martin Luther King, maybe I wouldn’t have been inspired to write the exams to join the Foreign Service. If I hadn’t taken an early-morning flight in the spring of 1974 from Brussels to Vienna on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) business, I wouldn’t have met my wife and the mother of our three children and five grandchildren. If I hadn’t become foreign-policy adviser to newly elected Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 1994, he wouldn’t have appointed me Ontario’s lieutenant governor in 2002. And if I hadn’t become lieutenant governor, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my career giving back to society by establishing libraries in Indigenous-run schools across the province, a book club for 5,000 Indigenous children, creative-writing awards, and most important of all, summer reading camps for marginalized indigenous children in Northern Ontario.

James Bartleman

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
James Bartleman photo

James Bartleman

James Bartleman is the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and the bestselling author of the novels As Long as the Rivers Flow and The Redemption of Oscar Wolf. A member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, he is also a retired ambassador, an officer of the Order of Canada, and winner of the Aboriginal Achievement Award. He lives in Perth, Ontario.