December 4, 2020, marked the passing of Dr. Myler Wilkinson, former instructor of Peace Studies and English at Selkirk College.
Born April 5, 1953, in Vancouver BC, Myler was a lifelong athlete and friend, with an infectious smile, ready jokes and glowing interest in every person he met. Myler's life took him throughout the world as an accomplished scholar and a visionary educator as he shared a compelling passion for global culture and history that inspired students from Canada, Russia, Japan, China and Costa Rica.
A prize-winning author and editor, Myler produced a number of scholarly and creative published works, and he was awarded Best Short Fiction by the Fiddlehead Literary Journal in 2014 for his short story The Blood of Slaves, which was based on the life of famed Russian writer Anton Chekhov. Along with his spouse, the now-retired international education faculty member Linda Wilkinson, Myler will be remembered at Selkirk College as a founding visionary and tireless advocate of the Mir Centre for Peace. This unique and vibrant institution remains an integral part of Selkirk College's mission and a lasting legacy of the Wilkinsons.
Myler's passion and vision live on through all those who gather at the Mir Centre to learn, share ideas and come together to build cultures of peace. In that spirit, if you are so moved, Myler's family welcomes you to make a donation in his honour.
On a brilliant early autumn afternoon in late September, family, friends and former colleagues gathered at the Mir Centre for Peace to remember “a giant of a man” who impacted countless lives at Selkirk College and around the world.
An autumn blaze maple tree will grow deep roots in front of the Mir Centre for Peace on the Selkirk College Castlegar Campus as tribute to a man who made a lasting impact on the region and beyond.
The tree we chose is an autumn blaze maple. We know that Myler loved trees—all kinds of trees—and that maples held a special place in his heart. His daughter, Anna, thinks of maples in connection to her dad. We also wanted something showy—not because Myler was showy (he wasn’t), but because we thought it fitting to have some splendour and vibrancy here in the place that stands for one of the highest ideals we share: peace.
Myler's Memorial in Photos
Please enjoy photos from this meaningful event.
As you look through these photos, you will notice attendees wearing blue scarves as a reminder of the things we can each do to actively promote peace, whether by supporting women and peace activists in Afghanistan, or in our own ways closer to home.
Blue scarves, as read by Jennie Barron at the memorial:
As many of you here know, today is September 21, which is the UN-designated International Day of Peace, marked around the world. To mark that day and to honour how important peace education was to Myler, we have gifted you each with a blue scarf, a symbol that has become associated with peace, and an end to all wars around the world.
The Blue Scarf movement began in Afghanistan in 2008, when a small group of brave Afghan women from a group called RAWA gathered in war-torn Khandahar wearing blue scarves to publicly pray for peace and justice in Afghanistan. (RAWA is a women's organization that promotes women's rights and secular democracy.)
The group soon grew to include thousands of women, supported by Unifem, Afghan Youth Peace volunteers and international groups like The Simple Way, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Friends Without Borders, and World Beyond War. Blue scarves have become a symbol of what we have in common – our common humanity, united under one big blue sky – and “our collective wish as a human family to live without wars … and to take care of our earth.” (Border-free Blue Scarves Project).
We invite you to wear your scarf and let it be a reminder of the things we can each do to actively promote peace, whether by supporting women and peace activists in Afghanistan, or in our own ways closer to home.
Speeches and written tributes, shared with permission
Jennie Barron, Chair of the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College
Welcome, everybody. I’m so pleased to see the sunshine, and all of you gathered here to celebrate the life and work of Dr Myler Wilkinson.
I’d like to start off by acknowledging that the land we gather on today is the traditional territory of the Sinixt, who have figured very large in the history and establishment of the Mir Centre for Peace and who were very important to Myler. Across all campuses of the college, we acknowledge that we also work, live and play on the traditional territories of the Ktunaxa, Syilx, and Secwepmec peoples, which we share with many Metis and other Indigenous peoples who have very deep roots and ties to this land. I am grateful for their stewardship and am reminded daily of the importance of reconciliation as we work to build cultures of peace.
Today we’ll be hearing from quite a number of people who have stories and anecdotes and kind words to share. Myler’s family are here and we are so grateful that they came in from quite a distance—some from the coast—for this special event.
Angus Graeme, Selkirk College President (2011–2022)
Thank you everyone in attendance today for joining together to celebrate the much loved-and much missed-friend and colleague, Myler Wilkinson. I am disappointed at missing the opportunity to join you today, but was not able to adjust my schedule.
The good news is that I will be able to visit the tree you are planting as often as I can for moments of quiet; moments of recollection and moments reflection.
I will also make sure the tree is being well looked after and thriving - something Myler did for so many students and colleagues over the years. There is something eloquent about commemorating Myler with a tree in the Mir Centre grounds. I recall instances when Myler used talk about the great metaphor that the simple tree could provide for thinking about great ideas: how ideas needed time to take root, to grow strong, to seek light and sustenance, how they needed tending, and that if all was successful the tree could branch out in support of other similar ideas.
So, how fitting that “Myler’s Tree” will take root alongside the Mir Centre for Peace where it will join all the other roots of conviction and inspiration in this wonderful place that envisions a more peaceful and just community and world.
And how fortunate Selkirk College is to have benefitted so much from Myler and Linda’s vision over 20 years ago to have a community based, inclusive Centre for Peace, academic programming in Peace Studies, community programming in Peace and Justice, attracting prominent and celebrated thinkers and speakers, and supporting a generation of young peace builders to lead us. The Mir Centre for Peace has made Selkirk College a better college and it has strengthened our communities.
Linda, to you and your family I again offer my condolences on the loss of Myler and I hope that commemorating him and his inspiring impact on us through the gesture of planting a tree brings you joy and comfort in the years ahead.
Thank you again everyone in attendance today.
Marilyn Luscombe, President of Selkirk College (2000–2011)
Marilyn was president during the time the Mir Centre for Peace was first envisioned by Myler and Linda, and that vision was brought to life through their extraordinary efforts.
Dear Linda and Family,
I am so very sorry about Myler's illness and passing, and I send my sincerest condolences and also huge gratitude for having him as a friend and colleague. I deeply regret not being there with you today as you remember him and many wonderful things about him.
I met Myler during my interview for the presidency of Selkirk, and received a wonderful letter from him after it was announced that I was indeed going to have the privilege to lead our precious College. In it, he told me about the Mir Centre for Peace. How beautifully he described the vision and values and purpose of this magnificent aspect of the College! Several months later, when I actually moved across the country and took up my responsibilities, I was walking through the corridor to learn my way around. I came upon Myler's office, poked my head inside to say 'hello' and sat and talked for awhile. I asked Myler what the door plaque: ‘Centre for American and Russian Studies’ referred to. He told me it was like the Mir Centre for Peace - both were dreams to be fulfilled, and that his conjecture was that if you actually name things before they become a reality, they indeed become real. And so began my introduction to - and learning from - the magnificent, creative, passionate, persistent, resilient, caring and brilliant Myler Wilkinson!
As he and Linda and others worked with me to evolve the full reality of the Mir Centre, he gently took my hand along the way, always at my shoulder and always helping to create solutions to the various hurdles along the journey.
Myler, you taught me so much. Your presence is at the core of the Mir Centre for Peace. It is your loving, caring, peaceful legacy, and we are blessed. Rest well, my friend.
Linda, I am thinking of you and your family today from the other side of the country, but feeling close and sending my warmest embrace.
Alex Atamanenko, former Member of Parliament
Ann and I regret that we are away and not able to be with you here today.
Myler was a remarkable individual. When we moved here in 1993, he encouraged me to organize a Russian conversation class in Krestova and subsequently was instrumental in assisting me to re-introduce a Russian program at Selkirk College. (I might add that he was in my first class and proved to be a very capable student.) I will always remember Myler for his dedication to Russian literature and culture, and truly believe that he had a Russian soul.
Myler also believed a better world free of violence was possible and actively worked to promote Peace Studies here at Selkirk College. It is fitting that we honour his commitment with a scholarship in his name.
On a personal note I regret that I did not spend much time with Myler, especially during the last years. I appreciated very much his friendship over the years and also his support and encouragement when I began my political career.
Linda, Anna and Nathan, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Please accept our sincere apologies for not being here with you.
Randy Janzen, former Chair of the Mir Centre for Peace
I'm sorry I cannot attend the memorial for Myler, as Mary Ann and I are currently in Quebec City, continuing with our French immersion. After this we are heading back up north to work public health for a month, to help out with the pandemic. I would like to offer the following message:
The Mir Centre for Peace owes its existence to Myler. Without Myler's vision and hard work, the Mir Centre for Peace would not be here. On an occasion such as this, I become a bit sad if I think about what Myler would be doing right now - working still for its vision. That is a loss for us all. But perhaps it is better to rather reflect on Myler's accomplishments, that we can still experience today. In that sense, Myler's work continues.
Gretchen and Michael O’Brien
Dear Linda and Family:
We will be forever grateful to Myler, to have been included in his two REMARKABLE trips to Russia! We were so impressed with his wide range of knowledge and great enthusiasm shared with us all. These memories will remain with us forever.
Linda, we are thinking of you and sending our love to you and your family.
Thank you for sharing your dear Myler with us all!
Fondly, Michael and Gretchen
Lena Sherstobitoff, former student, now Selkirk College faculty member
I was Myler’s student in the late 1990s. The first class I ever took with him was a literary tour of Russia. We travelled to Yasnaya Polyana, Lev Tolstoy’s estate, where we studied Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, and Anton Chekov’s work. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to study these Russian masters for the first time in the very homes and landscapes where these texts were written. To also study these works with Myler, who was so passionate about this era and these writers, was also amazing. I could not imagine a better introduction to Russian literature.
I took a few more courses with Myler over the next few years and he did something I had not seen before: he would include Doukhobor texts on his course reading list. As a young Doukhobor, I had only ever discussed these experiences within community settings. There was always space for these stories at my Baba’s house, but Myler showed me that this lens could be broadened. He made it known that these stories were important, to Doukhobors, yes…but he taught me that these experiences had value beyond our communities. They were important in helping us understand this place (the Kootenays) as well as understand the larger Canadian experience.
I will always be grateful to Myler for expanding my world, and my place in this world, in such an important and necessary way.
Thank you for letting me share this with you today.
Leo Perra, Selkirk College President (1980—2000)
Myler's passing came as a surprise as I remember him as a person who took care of himself in his quiet and assured manner. In his quiet demeanor he did accomplish much with the Mir Centre. Clearly, he was the catalyst and sustaining force that makes the Centre the reality that it is today. Not only does the Mir Centre provide a location for the meeting of minds seeking solutions to global solutions at the local level, I believe it also serves as a symbol of unity among the many communities that call the Kootenays home.
I sincerely regret not being able to participate in the celebration of Myler's life. I know that I will remember him for his kind and supportive role as a member of the Selkirk community. My sincere condolences to Linda and his family.
Lori Barkley, former anthropology and peace studies instructor
Myler steadfastly held on to the dream that this abandoned building with no windows could be something special. He was so right. So many people have come to this place to be enveloped in a sense of peace, to pick the apples, to contemplate the river, to walk their fur babies, to just slow down and “be” in a busy world. He would try to have as many classes as possible here, as everyone could feel the shift. Everyone seems to become a better version of themselves in this space.
Co-developing and co-teaching the leadership for peace course with Myler was a highlight of my time at Selkirk. Myler could go from brilliant insights to the most silly all in the blink of an eye. He always kept things interesting, he always saw the possibilities, and most assuredly he would always have an insight from one of his favorite thinkers: Tolstoy, Ghandi, King, and of course, Peter Tosh!
I still can’t quite imagine the world without you in it Myler, but you will always be an important part of the very fabric of this place and the legacy that you and Linda created with both the Mir Centre for Peace and the Peace Studies program is a gift to the community. You are missed and this place provides us all with a place to come and feel your presence.
Lim limpt (thank you) for being you and for your hard work and dedication to this place of peace.
Harry Wong, Jr., descendent of Alex Christian, the last Sinixt to continually inhabit the place known as K’pitels, or Brilliant, at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers.
Myler was a giant of a man, peaceful, kind, caring for all, a great loss. We miss him dearly but we are blessed with all the good work he did for social justice; he was a true professional. His life’s work will live on and on…
—Harry Wong Jr.
In Memory of My Friend Myler: A tribute by Gordon Turner, retired English instructor, Selkirk College
Myler was a very good friend of mine, a person I got to know well over 32 years. He was an intellectual of great depth, and he was emotionally intense when situations required it. I loved the man for his attitude toward life and for his loyalty to his friends. In all my years working with him and traveling with him and socializing with him, he never let me down.
Initially, I met Myler when he was finishing his Ph.D at McGill and applied to teach English at Selkirk College, and I as Department Head actually hired him. With Selkirk’s venture to bring Soviet writers to Western Canada for readings and tours in 1989, Myler wrapped himself in all the events...
The Myler Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship in Peace Studies
The scholarship will be provided to a high-ranking Selkirk College student entering his or her second year in the Peace & Justice Studies Program.
Give by Cheque
Write a cheque to “Selkirk College Foundation”
In the memo line, write “Myler Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship in Peace Studies”
Mail the cheque to: Attn: Advancement Selkirk College 301 Frank Beinder Way Castlegar, BC V1N 4L3
Visit selkirk.ca/support, click “Donate Today”
On the donation form, select your donation amount.
Tap the dropdown menu and select “Other” as the Designation.
Type “Myler Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship in Peace Studies” in the comment box.
Enter your billing and payment information to finalize the process.
Myler's narrative history of the Mir Centre for Peace
History of the Mir Centre for Peace: A narrative history of the Mir Centre, prepared by Dr. Myler Wilkinson.