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Ontario author seeks Inuvik stories
Darlene Butts compiling 150 Canadian stories for book

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Thursday, June 29, 2017

She's not getting government funding but Darlene Butts has jumped on the Canada 150 train and is ambitiously trying to publish a book of Canadian stories by the end of this year.

 NNSL photograph

Darlene Butts is country-trotting this summer to construct a book with 150 Canadian stories. She was in Inuvik for two days but wants to hear any good tales she missed. - Stewart Burnett/ NNSL photo

To do that, the southern Ontario author been travelling across Canada gathering stories from ordinary Canadians doing extraordinary things, as she puts it.

"I'm trying to put together this anthology so that no matter where anyone was born, where they live in Canada, what colour their skin is, what religion they practise, there's a story in there that can inspire them that they know they can achieve their dreams in Canada," explained Butts, who was in Inuvik very briefly last week trying to take in as much as she could.

While here, she was enamoured with the history of the connection between the Inuvialuit and Parks Canada in establishing national parks in the region. She also spoke with an elder who spent time in an igloo as a youth, something particularly novel for the Ontarian Butts.

She got the idea to pursue the project in March and has been on a whirlwind tour of the country, by road and plane, ever since. Friends and family have been supporting her travels with donations and gifts.

"I realized as I talked to Canadians, we're very humble, and we don't think our stories are that important or extraordinary, and yet every person I talk to really has an extraordinary story," she said.

Ultimately, her dream is to publish the book this year and put it in every Grade 5 classroom in the country. She's been working with small businesses to sponsor classrooms already.

It's her hope that readers see the commonalities between Canadians, despite the different circumstances many live in, and recognize the common bond of people wanting to do the best for their family, find love and have connection.

"Inuvik is more isolated definitely than Milton, Ont., outside of Toronto, so you have to pull on different resources," said Butts, comparing the community to her hometown.

"You have to pull together harder as a community than people in Milton do. You get a different sense of people based on where they live, and I want to profile that so somebody growing up in Milton understands what it's like to live up here."

Her sense from her brief time in Inuvik is that it is a tight-knit community with a lot of mutual support.

"There's more support across the board for everything," she said. "It's almost like back to the 1950s, small town, everybody knew each other, everybody's problem was everybody's problem and everybody worked together to solve it."

Though she's left Inuvik, she still wants stories from the area. They can be personal ones or historical ones, or anything interesting.

Butts encourages people to submit their stories on her website, They don't need to be well-written, she said. Just the facts are needed and she'll pretty it up.

"It's really been one of those situations where I feel like the universe has supported this project," said Butts. "Every time I think how are we going to do this, something happens and we're able to do it. It's been amazing."

Her next big task is fundraising for a flight to Nunavut.

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