‘There it is,” said Gertrude Rompre. “The pimple on the prairie.”
Blackstrap ‘Mountain’ just sort of popped up out of the flat landscape framed by distant trees showing the first flush of spring green.
With local grain elevators no longer marking the horizon it serves as the key landmark around Dundurn, Saskatchewan.
About 40 kilometres south of Saskatoon, this 45-metre pinnacle had been initially constructed as the venue for the alpine events at the 1971 Canada Winter Games.
Some half million cubic metres of construction waste, urban detritus, rock and prairie soil were piled up on to the edge of a slope running down to Blackstrap Lake. The rise coupled with the natural drop down to the artificial lake gave skiers a 350-metre run with a total 100-metre vertical drop. This proved enough for the competitors back in 1971 and for downhill skiing starved prairie folk today.
Rompre, a member of the chaplain’s team at St. Thomas More College of the University of Saskatchewan, gave me a ride back into Saskatoon last Saturday night.
We had both been to the annual meeting of Development and Peace for Saskatchewan at the nearby Cedar Lodge, which sits down near the eastern end of Blackstrap Lake.
The gathering had also served as a celebration of the 40th anniversary of this international development and relief organization.
Over the past four decades Development and Peace has raised more than a half billion dollars.
These funds have supported 15,000 plus development projects of every description imaginable from Peruvian soup kitchens to Amazonian nut harvesting co-operatives in about half of the countries around our world as well as disaster relief efforts.
As laudable as those concrete contributions to socio-economic well-being of our global neighbours have been, arguably the most important contribution of organizations like Development and Peace has been the part they have played in raising our awareness of the crucial planetary struggles facing us.
Gertrude has just begun her term on Development and Peace’s Education Committee.
Offering hope in the face of momentous global challenges and providing concrete opportunities for solidarity is part of the larger agenda of that committee.
They know positive change is possible.
Through past education campaigns they have done their part in addressing a host of concerns from ending apartheid in South Africa to causing wealthy countries to recognize the crippling impact of debt on poorer countries.
“People first” and Life before profit” have been slogans for recent Development and Peace education campaigns.
These serve as overall reference points on our solidarity journey.
It is a journey that spans generations.
The presence of two nonagenarians, Therese Leclaire from Saskatoon and Leo Kurtenbach from Cudworth, at the meeting reminded all present of the long experience of struggle in Saskatchewan towards that still distant goal of a just society.
The children in the meeting’s day care will be eventually called on to continue this journey.
From the top of Blackstrap Mountain you can see for kilometres and kilometres.
Whether in that meeting room in a Saskatchewan conference centre and in our homes here in the Yukon we are called to look as far as we can into the future.
From this vantage take step after step towards the world we want to see for future generations.