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Chris Melnick

Chris Melnick: Reads & Watches: Two Canadians You Might Want to Know About

by Chris Melnick, Jan 1, 2023

[Editor's note: Chris Melnick is the Executive Director of Share the Magic Book Program, which is a federally registered charity that distributes books, from books for babies to adults, fiction and non-fiction to underserved communities in Manitoba.  To date, Share the Magic has given away over 630,000 books at an estimated value of over $4.2 million. You can follow Share the Magic on Facebook by searching "Share the Magic Book Program"]


Two Canadians you might want to know about


        If you are like me, following the news these days can be more upsetting than usual.  So much so that it can be hard to remember that there is also a different realty in this world, not so promoted by the media.  Namely, that there are many people doing many good things, locally, nationally and internationally.  Some of them are right here in Canada.  Below are suggested readings about two such people.   


        Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the wisdom of the forest by Suzanne Simard is about one such positive person.  This book provides a readable lesson into the inter-connectivity of a healthy forest environment, beginning at the centre of it all with the Mother Tree.


        Simard grew-up in an isolated area of the British Columbian rain forest.  Her grandparents were sustainable foresters, who knew and understood the rhythm of the trees and the ability to harvest while maintaining healthy forests.  She too was connected to trees and their survival from early childhood, with parents who supported her efforts on sustainability right from the start.  Her earliest memory is at the age of three, being allowed to eat dirt, just because is tasted good.  She went on to study forestry at a time when a very small percentage of students were female.  In the book, Simard shares the negative response that she got from male foresters in charge of policy development in the BC provincial government, when presenting her research. This brave woman took on the clear-cut forest position of the major forestry companies in BC and subsequently around the world, with scientific proof, beyond any doubt, that clear-cutting was the death knell to sustainable forestry. And I believe her account of these events. 


        Her evidence is based on the proof that “Mother trees” create underground connections through to their saplings and other plants, as they develop and mature, via vast networks of mycelium, also called mycorrhizals or mycorrhizal fungi, providing the needed nutrients to make sure these plants not just survive but thrive.  A quick search for “mycorrhizas” provides a much more elegant description and explanation than mine.  Clear cutting puts an end to this cycle and destroys the forest.  Even replanting cannot replace the natural order.

        Not to be deterred, Simard went on to submit several articles to scientific journals outlining her research and findings.  Several were outright rejected, which seemed like a blackballing of her.  That is until the journal “Nature” published her paper as the cover story in the August 1997 edition.  Her research was so well received by the broader scientific community, that it was quickly dubbed “the wood wide web”.  Since that time, Simard has become widely recognized as a brilliant scientist on the international stage.  You can view Suzanne Simard explaining her ground-breaking work on tree communication and how a healthy forest LIVES, by watching her well-viewed TED talk, taped long before this book was written.  During this talk Simard states the fact that Canada has the most clear cuts in the world, at that time, even more than the country often thought of as the front runner, Brazil.  This stat may have changed after four years of regressive leadership under former Brazilian President Bolsonaro, whose policy to clear cut many areas of the Rain Forest are now being reversed by recently elected President Lula and I for one say “Go Lula Go”.

        The book ends on a very positive note explaining Simard’s explanation of “The Mother Tree Project” through which various experiments are being carried out in B. C. forests to learn more about healthy plant environments.  Simard invites everyone to identify the Mother trees in their environment and do what they can to protect her and the plants that she is connected to.  These plants can range from tress, to gardens to potted plants on a balcony.  Every effort helps.  You can find out more about the Project by going to


        Finding the Mother tree: Discovering the wisdom of the forest is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following formats:


        eAudiobook – MP3, OVERDRIVE LISTEN


        eBook – HTML, ADOBE E PUB


        Book – Call number 333.7 SIMARD 2021


        Book Large Print – Call number LT 333.7 SIMARD 2021


        Red Zone: From the offensive line to the front line of the pandemic by Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is about another incredible Canadian making a different.  Olympic champion Haley Wickenheiser O.C., thought to be the best women’s hockey player ever, now a doctor herself, calls this book “motivating and uplifting”.  It tells the tale of young kid from Montreal who dreamed of playing professional football and becoming a medical doctor – both dreams came true!  Duvernay-Tardif was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 and in 2018 graduated from the McGill University medical program.  He was the fourth highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history and played (pun intended) a major role in the Chief’s Super Bowl win in 2020.  Although at the top of his game, months later, he became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2021 season to volunteer as an orderly in a long-term care home for seniors just outside of Montreal.  This book follows both his journey to the NFL and through to graduation from McGill’s medical school. Throughout the book Duvernay-Tardif draws striking parallels between being a professional football player and a front line health-care worker during the COVID-19 pandemic and shares his strategic method of accomplishing both.  Among others, these parallels include:


  • Being a member of a team – recognizing that everyone has a role to play and that their efforts must be acknowledged.  He writes about the sacrifices team members make to “not let the team down”.  With athletes it is keeping in the best form possible and protecting those around you on the field. For front line workers, it is making sure to follow protocols to the max while also remembering you are caring for people.  While credit is given to the Doctors, even more so, it is given to those, whose efforts are not always recognized as the important roles that they play in providing patient care.


  • Suiting up for each shift – On the field this of course means being fully dressed in uniform with the many pads, etc. that are placed beneath the jerseys and leggings, topped off by the potentially life-saving helmet.  During the pandemic this meant wearing PPE and regular medical clothing as well as following safety procedures to make sure you are not spreading the COVID-19 virus from patient to patient.


  • Mental toughness – Football is a high contact sport, to say the least and going up against an opposing team at the NFL level requires one to be mentally ready for whatever may happen.  So too is going into a health care environment during a pandemic.  Duvernay-Tardif experienced COVID-19 break outs in the long-term care home and the removal of seniors, some who had lived in their rooms for several years, to COVID-19 wards or other facilities if they were unfortunate enough to contract the virus.  It had to be done to protect the others, but was nevertheless very difficult to see and enforce.  It would have been easy to become mentally drained under such stressful circumstances, as some workers experienced without a mental health strategy.


        Admitting that he was a bit nervous about how the sports world would react to his opt-out, the answer soon became clear.  For his brave and unselfish decision to put the care of others at that frightening time ahead of his own professional career, Duvernay-Tardif was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy for top Canadian male athlete, was the co-recipient of the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year and was awarded the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award. 

        Today Laurent Duvernay-Tardif plays for the New York Jets Football Team.



Red Zone: From the offense line to the front line of the pandemic is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following formats:






And now for this month’s Yiddish proverb


Vu sholom, dort iz brocheh

Where there is peace, there is blessing

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