During the wake of a political movement fuelled by the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, USA by former city police officer Derek Chauvin on May 26, protests about race, racism and social justice have been taking place around the world.

Blair McFarlane, the Invermere Public Library community outreach library assistant, has responded to rising political tensions with a hunger to get informed.

Her solution was simple: to broaden her view of the world through an ongoing love of reading, while encouraging the Columbia Valley library card holders to take the same approach.

“I feel like personally, I’ve been trying to do a lot of work to learn about the systemic racist problems in the United States (of America) and in Canada,” said McFarlane. “On social media, I’m trying to follow more Black voices and sharing (those) resources with other people. I mostly use Instagram, personally… there’s lots of good, full-length information there.”

While her desire to have more conversations about diversity with friends and family is strong, McFarlane recognizes that Canada has its own history that’s rooted in oppression and racism.

“In Canada, we can’t really talk about racism with talking about the residential school system in Canada,” she explained. “With the history of residential schools, there’s still a lot of reconciliation that we need to be doing here.”

With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada wrapping up the first phase of its efforts to honour what survivors can teach our citizens in Dec. 18, 2015, there is no shortage of reference material available to learn more about the longstanding effects of the residential school system and the Indian Act.

From a valley perspective, there are some great resources available for readers of all ages to learn more about the Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour (BIPOC) communities available in the form of physical books at the library that are available for curbside checkout as well as some eBooks available through the Libby app accessible to all library card members.

“Some great Indigenous picture books for kids are available and a Ktunaxa story adventure book for children is here too. Ktunaxa author Smokii Sumack wrote “You are Enough: Love Poems for the End of the World” did an author reading for us last spring and it was very well attended.”

Sumak’s book is available for curbside pickup at the community library for those with library cards.

However, McFarlane believes the community outreach program has room for improvement and hopes when the safety restrictions of the COVID-19 crisis are loosened, these efforts could be done in a more effective way.

“There’s definitely more we could be doing,” McFarlane said. “Just with COVID-19 and the libraries open, we haven’t been making those connections lately. It is such a small community, so it’s easy to get into a bubble and not think about these things. For me, I’ve always looked to books to create an empathetic view of the world and our library does a really good job at collecting lots of stories to help reflect the world around us.”

To learn more about Canada’s history, McFarlane recommends signing out “21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality” written by Bob Joseph through the curbside pickup community program.

“This one is Canada specific, and like I said, if we’re having these discussions about racism and white supremacy, we need to make sure we’re talking about Indigenous folks and how the government mistreated them,” explained McFarlane. “This book is really clear and it’s broken up in a way that’s not intimidating at all.”

Children’s Books Available on Libby app

There are five children’s picture books that McFarlane recommends for parents to sign-out for their families to learn more about First Nations culture through the Libby app. To sign up for a library card or to access online content through the Libby app, please visit: https://invermere.bc.libraries.coop/

  1. “My Heart Fills With Happiness” by Monique Gray Smith
  2. “Little You” by Richard Van Camp
  3. “We Sang You Home/ Ka Kîweh Nikâmôstamâtinân by Richard Van Camp” (In English and Plains Cree)
  4. “When We Alone” by David A. Roberston
  5. “Secret of the Dance” by Andrea Spalding and Alfred Scow