In her new book He Moved a Mountain, Joan Harper traces Frank Calder’s life from his early years on the Nass River in a tiny village in northern B.C.
At a great ceremony, Frank’s father placed the young boy on a table and declared to the entire assembly, “This boy will move that mountain.”
The “mountain” to which he was referring was the struggle of the Nisga’a people to gain title to their ancestral lands.
As part of the task in moving that mountain, Frank was sent to residential school in the Fraser Valley. He then went on to graduate from public school and would complete his degree at the University of British Columbia.
While fishing on the Nass, he made the momentous decision to run in the provincial election for the Atlin riding. To everyone’s astonishment, he won.
For many years, he represented the people of the North successfully. Throughout all this time he never forgot his father’s prophecy that he would move the “mountain” that prevented the Nisga’a from obtaining their lands.
Calder’s greatest achievement was to take the case, along with Tom Berger, to the Supreme Court of B.C., where he lost. He then took it to the Appeals Court of B.C., and when he lost there, he took it to the Supreme Court of Canada, where he lost again. Nevertheless, the prime minister of the time, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was so persuaded by Frank’s arguments that he asked Parliament to vote to give the Nisga’a their land settlement.
In her book, Harper also presents a good deal of information about Frank’s personal life, his marriage, and his devotion to their son.
A book-signing at Laughing Oyster Bookshop in Courtenay happens this Saturday at 11 a.m. Harper’s illustrated talk occurs Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Filberg Centre in Courtenay.
— Ronsdale Press