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3 entries from September 2021

Creating Space for Truth and Reconciliation through Art - Meet Keegan Starlight

Today – September 30, 2021 – is the first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Across Turtle Island (Canada), we’ve seen Canadians open their hearts and minds to Indigenous experiences and start their own individual journeys of reconciliation. My own journey started through the honest and generous conversations I’ve had with people like Helena Mazawasicuna, Melissa Tacan, Carol Pechawis, and Loretta Jacko here on PumpTalk.

“There's no right way or wrong way of moving on. It's coming together as a community to have a common goal.”

~Keegan Starlight

Reconciliation can take many forms. On a personal level, it has included learning about the impact that colonial actions continue to have on Indigenous communities and how I, as a white settler, continue to benefit. I have also tried to cultivate a more thorough appreciation for Indigenous culture. An event I (virtually) attended this past summer was the International Indigenous Music Summit’s project “Giiwewizh” – a series of mini-documentaries and live-performance footage featuring 16 Indigenous artists from across Canada. I discovered so much amazing music!

“Art is an unbiased medium. The written word can be one-sided. Art bridges the gap between acceptance (of history) and denial.”

~Keegan Starlight

Along with individuals, companies like Suncor, the proud parent of Petro-Canada, are also on their own journey of reconciliation, a journey that could take many forms. At Petro-Canada, we have an opportunity to provide space for Indigenous Peoples to share their experiences and history, and to reclaim their identity, language, culture and nationhood through our network of sites. Which is why we are commissioning Indigenous artists to create murals at six of our locations – Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver – to commemorate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Keegan Starlight
Keegan Starlight - Photo Credit: DQStudios

The first completed mural that we’re delighted to unveil is “Connected” by Keegan Starlight. Keegan is an artist from the Tsuut’ina First Nation just west of Calgary.

PumpTalk: Can you tell me about the story portrayed on your mural?

Keegan Starlight: In this case the buffalo and the raven are like a cycle – a cycle of growth and change that have existed in the natural world forever – and the connection between the Creator, the earth, the water and the spirit. I have included the prairie grass (Buffalo grass/sage) in the mural, something that is regionally present here in Alberta, and would be something that the buffalo would eat to survive.

PT: What inspires your art?

KS: My culture certainly, how I grew up. I like to think of my art as my culture, but through my eyes, my own interpretation. My grandfather was a big inspiration for me; I would watch him when I was younger and admire how easily it came to him. For him it was natural and easy, I wanted to model myself after him.

PT: Why is art an important form of storytelling?

KS: Indigenous culture has a deep-rooted system for creativity and storytelling. Art and artistic expression is a huge part of how we tell stories. Long ago there wasn’t always the written word, so we depended on storytelling and art to help us keep our histories alive. Many of our stories are around today because they survived through art and the spoken word.

PT: What was your process for planning and creating your mural?

KS: Mostly I paint what I know. I love the way the blue and the coral colours work together to depict our wide-open sky, with the foothills in the distance. It’s the colour of sunrise and sunset.

Connected by Keegan Starlight
“Connected” by Keegan Starlight - Photo Credit: DQStudios

PT: What does reconciliation mean to you?

KS: Reconciliation means we benefit from a common education of the current and past injustices of Indigenous peoples. It means accepting that those injustices are part of our history, and continue to be felt across Indigenous communities across Canada. I personally feel positive about what I am seeing in Canada, people are open to listening and learning, but it cannot undo the past and it doesn’t change the fact that we still experience racism, do not have access to clean drinking water, and face discrimination everyday.

PT: Why did you decide to participate in Petro-Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Mural Project?

KS: Oil and gas is a touchy subject. As long as Petro-Canada is actually doing the hard work and taking steps then I’m supportive, very supportive. Suncor has shown they are taking the right steps, and knowing that Suncor owns Petro-Canada, I feel very good about it. With Petro-Canada and Suncor providing this opportunity, I knew I wanted to support it.

PT: What do you see as the benefit of having a mural in such a public space like the side of a Petro-Canada station?

KS: It’s a great location, very diverse and busy. People walk by, drive by; they stop and say “hi”. Of course, it’s close to Tsuut’ina, which is where I’m from, so we can come by and enjoy it all the time.

You can hear more from Keegan about his creative process, the story of his mural and how we can all get involved in the process of reconciliation in the following video.

You’ll find Keegan’s mural at the Petro-Canada location at 5505 Signal Hill Centre SW Calgary, AB.

A big thank you to Keegan for creating his mural and sharing his vision for reconciliation; be sure to check out his Instagram! And thank you to Dave Cheung from DQStudios for shooting amazing pictures and video.

Over the next few months we’ll be introducing our other mural artists and revealing their creations. Stay tuned to our Instagram for sneak peeks of their work.

~Kate T.

Going the Extra Kilometre with Canada’s Most Driven

For the past few years, Canadian appreciation for professional truck drivers and the invaluable service they provide has grown. We echo that appreciation through our Canada’s Most Driven contest – a driver recognition program that we hold at our Petro-Pass™ sites each spring. Every Canadian truck driver deserves our thanks, but these four drivers really went the extra kilometre.

Winners of 2021 Canada's Most Driven Contest

Gaétan Laprise (Quebec)
“He is a trucker at heart.”
Gaétan was nominated because his colleagues say “trucking is in his blood.” He’s passionate about safety, respect on the road and working in eastern Canada. With a knack for mechanics, Gaétan always drives with spare parts, so he can help fellow drivers get back on the road.

Ann Marie Mckay (Alberta)
“I love my job.”
For Ann Marie, the joy and pride of trucking is in supporting Canadian workers. Every day, she drives crews to work, just north of Fort McMurray, o en stopping along the way to get them snacks. “I take pride in knowing they trust me to keep them safe on the road,” she says.

Leeann Betournay (Ontario)
“I have a whole career of accident-free miles.”
When Leeann started 21 years ago, there weren’t many women in trucking. It wasn’t always easy, but she stuck with it, because she loves the industry, the views and the people she meets along the way. With her outstanding safety record, we’re glad she persevered.

Andrew Coruzzi (Ontario)
“I strive to be the best I can be.”
Trucking for 12 hours a day isn’t for the faint of heart, but Andrew believes food is important. It’s why he continued delivering to Ontario grocery stores during the pandemic. It’s also why — when he’s not driving — Andrew cooks meals for the underprivileged.

Many thanks to these four drivers and to all the truck drivers across Canada, working tirelessly to keep Canadians supplied and our country moving.

~Braden H.

Taking Care of Truckers – an Interview with Crystal Blair from Angel's Diner

September 5-11 is National Trucking Week in Canada. During this week, we take the time to acknowledge and celebrate the 400,000 men and women in the trucking industry who keep Canada's freight and economy moving. Over the last 18 months, the importance of those who live their lives on the road – whether delivering food, medical supplies or toilet paper – certainly came into sharp relief.

But in the early days of COVID-19, a lot of truckers were without support, even while supporting us. Many truck stops were closed, as were other businesses that truckers relied on for essentials.

But in Glenholme, Nova Scotia, the Glenholme Loop Petro-Pass and restaurant stayed open. Not only was it open, but Crystal Blair (the owner who is affectionately called "Angel" by the truckers who pass through her stop) provided meals, free of charge, to any trucker who needed it.

Crystal at Angel's Diner

I sat down with Crystal to hear about how things were at her truck stop during the first wave of COVID-19 and how she and her truckers are doing now.

PumpTalk: What were things like in the first few weeks of the pandemic?

Crystal: It was a very confusing time. People said I should close my restaurant, but when I was on social media, I saw that so many places were closed and truckers, who live on the road, couldn’t get a meal or find facilities – I knew I had to do something.

I didn’t want to put my staff at risk, so I didn’t ask them to come in. I figured out what I could do by myself, which was open up the showers and provide breakfast sandwiches, just for truckers, on a strictly take-out basis. I was often the only place open for hundreds of miles.

PT: And you provided the meals free of charge?

Crystal: Yes. Though several truckers did put in a contribution – I had a bucket on the counter. As soon as the community heard about what I was doing, they really rallied around the truckers. Donations came in – people starting sending them so that I could keep providing free meals and staying open. And food donations were sent from places like local produce companies and other businesses.

PT: How did truckers respond?

Crystal: Every trucker who came in was so kind and appreciative. Soon I had truckers coming in that I didn’t even know – they’d just heard of me from one of their buddies on the road. Even these days, I’ll occasionally have a driver come in and ask, “Are you Angel?”

A wonderful surprise from the truckers came later in the year when they started the Angel Diner's Chicken Light Cruise. It’s a fundraiser for the local community that they started in my honour. Last year, we donated money to families of the victims of the tragic Nova Scotia shootings. This year, the Cruise was held actually just a couple of weekends ago; we raised funds for Cystic Fibrosis – one of my customers has CF. Each year we plan to raise funds for a different cause.

PT: Now that it’s been about 18 months since the first wave of the pandemic, how are things different?

Crystal: Well, we’re open again to the general public – both take-out and eat in – with proper distancing. Still seeing lots of truckers, of course. The diner’s Facebook page isn’t quite as busy – I used to get 100s of messages a day. But I still post there. A lot of people found it to be place where they could get hopeful and positive messages during a time of isolation.

PT: And how are your truckers?

Crystal: So many of them are still isolating from their families, wanting to keep them safe. Places may be opening up, but truckers are cautious and concerned. They’re such a kind and loyal bunch. And most of them are family men and I know their wives quite well. One of them had a birthday recently and her favourite dessert is coconut crème pie – so I sent one to her for her birthday.

PT: Speaking of pie, I’ve seen on your Facebook page that your desserts often sell out, especially your blueberry cheesecake parfait! Any other trucker favourites?

Crystal: Fish and chips is popular. Big burgers. Any of my homemade specials, really.

PT: It’s been 18 months and we’re certainly not out of the woods entirely vis a vis the pandemic. But you’ve remained so positive. What are some of the best moments from the past year or so?

Crystal: It’s been so inspiring to see how the community has come together. The community helped feed all our truck drivers for free for over 3 months - so amazing! And now the truckers are giving back to the community with events like the Chicken Light Cruise. It’s been really wonderful to see.

~ | ~

Crystal, thank you so much for sharing your story and for taking care of truckers during a very difficult time! Make sure you stop by Crystal’s Facebook page and leave a friendly hello.

~Kate T.