Clarkson and Saul to visit Penticton

Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson will be honouring the memory of Capt. Jonathan Snyder when she visits Penticton in June.  - Submitted photo
Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson will be honouring the memory of Capt. Jonathan Snyder when she visits Penticton in June.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The former Governor-General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson and her husband, acclaimed author John Ralston Saul, are going to have a very busy time when they arrive in Penticton this June.

Saul will be giving the keynote address at the Association of Canadian Community Colleges on June 3rd, and on the fourth, Clarkson will be dedicating section of Main Street to the memory of Capt. Jonathan Snyder, who died in Afghanistan on June 7, 2008.

Clarkson is the Colonel-in Chief of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which is Snyder’s regiment, so she was affected when he died in Afghanistan. According to Rotary President Brian Hughes, who is organizing the dignitaries’ visit, Clarkson began corresponding with Snyder’s father, David, after he sent her some of the poetry he wrote after his son’s death.

Once city hall confirmed their support of the project, Hughes said he called Clarkson again to notify her, and then was surprised when Clarkson contacted him again on Wednesday.

“She phoned me yesterday and told me that she has decided that this needs full military distinction and so the Lt. Colonel from the Patricia’s will be coming and a whole bunch of Jonathan’s battalion mates will also be attending,” said Hughes. “So it is going to be a big military deal.”

While Clarkson’s primary purpose in coming to Penticton is to pay her respects to Snyder, she will also be joining her husband at a dual fundraiser that evening.

“They very rarely will give talks at the same event,” said Hughes who explains they will be having a fundraiser big fundraiser for the Rotary International Foundation for Polio Eradication as well as PEN international, of which Saul is president.

“It’s the oldest human rights organization in the world,” said Hughes. “It started in 1921 and he is only the second person from North America to ever be president. The other was Henry Miller, so it is quite an honour for him.”

It won’t be Saul’s first time in Penticton. Hughes has been working to draw him back since the author spoke at a Philosopher’s Café in 2008.

“After we had that Philosopher’s Café years ago with John, I’ve kept in contact with him,” said Hughes, who had tried to invite Saul for one of the TEDx Talks hosted at Okanagan College. Then he realised that the 15-minute TEDx time limit might not be the best format for the essayist.

“He’s not really TEDx material, he’s just getting going after fifteen minutes. He’s a half-hour kind of guy,” joked Hughes.

While this is not a political visit by Clarkson and Saul, Hughes hopes it provokes some conversation and thought about Canada’s role on the world stage.

“Canada should be more of a country that is finding peaceful solutions to these conflicts, because they aren’t going away. The days of two nations lining up against each other are gone. It’s always going to be insurgents now and guerrilla warfare,” said Hughes. “So Canada, are we are going to be running into Mali now, or Senegal or wherever the next hot spot is? Or are we going to try and find more constructive solutions?”



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