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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Canadaville and Katrina

In the wake of the destruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of the US, Frank Stonach, a very wealthy Canadian Industrialist was moved to respond as an individual and through his corporation, Magna International, to do something directly and immediately. He began buy moving a group of refugees from the New Orleans area to his racetrack property in Florida, which had buildings that had just been finished to house staff there.

Next Mr Stonach decided to develop some housing for some of the people in need. Without the aid or constraints of government he purchased 900 acres of land 150 miles north of New Orleans, near Simmesport, La., and in the period of four months he built a small community of fifty modular homes.

Stonach has a vision, one might even say a utopian vision, that people could recover from the trauma of Katrina and with some help could rebuild their lives and even improve upon their previous life. His idea was to build housing on a large tract of land to form a community. The heart of the community would be to use the agricultural land for market gardening and the raising of small animals. Those who were accepted for this housing would live free of charge for five years. They must adhere to certain community rules: they must work or go to school, they must volunteer several hours a week to the community, They must participate in the government of the community and they must not use drugs. There are a couple of video's available on Canadaville. The best is on the Magna International Webside. I encourage you to watch it to get a good understanding of what Stronach has accomplished.

For the local rural community Stronach did some things to ease the acceptance of the people of Canadaville. He bought the town new police cars and paid the salaries of three additional policemen. He also built a local community center which could be used a shelter in an emergency.

Canadaville, Louisiana

I recently watched a TV program on Canadaville. it appears to have been a success for the most part. For some it is a place to live as they hope to return to New Orleans and for other it is new place and way to life.

While I read about I was remind of other social experiments. In 19C American there were several utopian community experiments, Brook Farm, Hopedale, Shaker communities, the Amana Community to name a few.
In the 20th Century, there has been the Bruderhof, a recreation of a Reformation Anababtist group, and Solheimar, Iceland, the eco and therapeutic community.

One that has long fastinated me is the Elgin Settlement in Ontario. It was founded by William King, a Presbyterian Minster, who inherited slaves through his wife. His story is recorded in the book "Look to the North Star", by William Ullman. He brought his 15 slaves to Canada and freed them and helped them settle in the Elgin Settlement, paid for by the Prebyterian Church. It was a community of farmers and their were stricted rules,( as only a Scots Presbyterian could dream up.) They ran from not being able to sell their farms to whites for at least 10 years to every house having to have a white picket fence in front.

It had many successes. The first integrated school in Canada was in the Elgin Settlement when the local people in the area closed their while school to send their children to the black school because it was better. The settlement, (now known as North Buxton, ) thrived for many years with farms and a brick works. The first generation of children of former slaves went on to become doctors, ministers and teachers. After the civil war, in which many of the men of the Elgin Settlement fought for the Union in a Michigan regiment, two Freedman's hospitals were founded my former residences of the community. One even beame a legislator in a southern state. Many Elgin residence returned to the US to find family and with the hope that life would be better for them after the civil war.

The Elgin settlement for me always represented an alternative model that could have been used in the US for reconstruction. Rather then "forty acres and a mule" there could have been a form of "black power" in which individuals were empowered with land , training, support and protection from exploitation.

There are parallels with Frank Stronach efforts. Like William King he was a benefactor, in his case not a white benefactor as much as an economic benefactor. Both communities, the Elgin Settlement and Canadaville were communities where the induviduals had to agree to some rules of behaviour and participation. Education was important in both. Deliberate efforts were also made to make the community acceptable to the surrounding rural community.. In the case of the Elgin settlement Canada granted them citizenship with all the rights and protections of the law. (They did suffer discrimination but they could legally fight back. The first politicial who tried to use race thye help defeat him at the polls.) This was at the time in the US when the Fugative Slave Act (requiring run away slaves having to be returned to their owners.) was in effect as the law of the land in that country.

For Canadaville, Stronach reassured the local community with policing help and investments in the local community that served all. Both Communities found earned their place by being good citizens and working hard.

Frank Stronach's experimental community like William Kings's Eligin settlement, is a model of another way to respond to the tragedy of Katrina. If there had been more direct action efforts by FEMA rather than the bureaucratic political stuggle that continues to this day, more help would have reached the people most in need. The people of Canadaville seem to have few criticisms of Frank Stronach and his effort He is obviously there for them for the long haul.

I hope you will view the video about Canadaville. With the exception of the self serving remarks of the Governor of Louisiana at the end, it is quite good.


At 8:17 p.m., Blogger Mary said...


A very interesting post all around. I especially enjoyed the information on the Elgin Settlement. I have written about the settlement and it has a very rich history.


At 9:55 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I am just wondering if you know that those long URLs can be shrunk to much shorter one at (and other places).

So instead of

You can have

and they go to the same place.

It makes it a little neater for your blog.

Just wondering if you knew that. :)

At 11:02 p.m., Blogger Alyssa said...

Very interesting. I had read about Canadaville a number of months ago and it certainly shows how people in need can be helped in a very productive manner. Both settlements you wrote about, had (have) at their helms, men of courage, kindness, empathy, and intelligence. Things such as this always give me hope for humanity.

At 7:35 a.m., Blogger possum said...

WOW! Very interesting and inspiring! How wonderful! Renews my faith in the human animal!
Makes ya wonder when some people are so blessedly wonderful how the universe can then produce something like Bush.
Sorry... I try not to get political on these blogs, but I do so often wonder...

At 3:51 p.m., Blogger Tee said...

It's nice to hear about the good and successful deeds of people. Really inspirational!


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