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November/December 2003
Vol. 35, no. 6
ISSN 1492-4676

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Canada Post Stamp Launch

Trevor Clayton, Communications

On September 8, 2003, International Literacy Day, Canada Post honoured the 50th anniversary of the National Library of Canada with a set of four new domestic rate stamps featuring five of the nation’s most respected writers.

In a year that saw the emergence of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) as a new cultural organization and the historic International Forum on Canadian Children’s Literature, the launch proved an affecting and fulfilling addition to the many initiatives surrounding the celebration of the Library’s 50th anniversary.

More than 100 people gathered in the north end exhibition room and applauded loudly as the enlarged commemorative stamps were uncovered, bearing portraits and literary passages of five well-known Canadian writers: sisters Susanna Moodie (1803-85) and Catharine Parr Traill (1802-99), on a single stamp; Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau (1912-43); Morley Callaghan (1903-90) and Anne Hébert (1916-2000).

The Stamp Advisory Committee at Canada Post selected the authors from a list submitted by the Library. Published works and archival documents from each author were selected from the collections of LAC and displayed during the launch.

Canada Post CEO André Ouellet and National Librarian Roch Carrier both spoke during the unveiling of the stamps and acknowledged the efforts of each other’s institution.

"Today, more than ever, the safekeeping of a country’s publications and recordings is paramount to the protection of its history," said Mr. Ouellet, who served as master of ceremonies. "Library and Archives Canada exists to ensure that our children and grandchildren, and those of generations to come, will have access to the words, pictures and sounds that explain Canada."

Mr. Carrier, tireless in his efforts to raise the profile of the new institution and promote the importance of Canada’s public libraries, in turn honoured Canada Post and used the opportunity to reinforce the goals of LACa. "It is an honour that Canada Post has chosen to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Library of Canada by issuing these postage stamps," he said. "This heightened profile will help us to ensure that all Canadians can access the works of our national authors."

Participating in the unveiling were relatives of the authors whose likenesses grace the new stamps, including Moodie’s great-great grandniece and Traill’s great-great granddaughter, Mrs. Jay Gibson, and Barry Callaghan (son to Morley). Mrs. Gibson and Mr. Carrier first unveiled Traill and Moodie’s stamp, followed by the unveiling of de Saint-Denys Garneau by Mr. Ouellet and Odette Dick, President of the Fondation de Saint-Denys Garneau. Mr. Callaghan and Mr. Ouellet next uncovered Morley Callaghan’s stamp (a 1943 Karsh portrait), and lastly Mr. Carrier and Frédéric Brochu, Director of Archives at the Université de Sherbrooke, unveiled the Hébert stamp.

With a guttural and deeply engaging voice, Callaghan read from Moodie’s fearless Roughing It in the Bush (1852) and Traill’s potent tribute to Moodie, written upon her sister’s death in 1885. Perhaps even more impressive was Callaghan’s thrilling recital from his father’s work A Passion in Rome (1961); in the recited scene, two lovers approach the Coliseum ruins and become aware of starving cats in the shadows, provoking the man to envision the ancient and savage killing of prisoners by wild beasts.

Conference facilitator Jacqueline Pelletier gave expressive readings from works of Quebec modernist icons Garneau and Hébert. "Le paquet de l’oncle Alfred (Uncle Alfred’s Package)," a short story written by Garneau in 1930, reveals an unusually playful side to this intensely artistic and solitary author; Pelletier gave a similarly theatrical reading from Hébert’s 1983 novel, Les Fous de bassan (In the Shadow of the Wind), a mystery in which landscape plays a dominant role.

The event concluded with a bistro-themed reception, providing guests with the opportunity to view the display of manuscripts and publications and to take a closer look at the commemorative stamps.

Library and Archives Canada and Canada Post share a long-standing commitment to literacy, and through ventures such as the Author Stamps, are helping to raise awareness of Canadian authors and their works.

The postage stamps are available throughout the coming year from Canada Post outlets, online at www.canadapost.ca or from the National Philatelic Centre at 1-800-565-4362 in a package of eight stamps for $3.84.

The colourful package in which the stamps are sold includes a reproduction of the Alfred Pellan mural Knowledge, as well as information on the National Library’s 50th anniversary and on Library and Archives Canada. The first-day covers recognize the anniversary and include the centre detail from the Pellan mural.