Nick Aplin

Since we met first in 1963 at Elgin and Lewis streets at the first Unitarian Congregation, courtesy of Jean and Ken Morrison now of Thunder Bay, I have been affected by Roy's quiet competence and by Sylvia's charm and her curiosity and her sense of humour. We shared a strong interest in social justice and, in particular, we shared the sense that by our own individual actions in concert with others we might actually be able to bring about desired changes in our society. What optimists we were !

Sylvia and my father shared a birthday - April Fool’s Day - although eleven years apart, and both were E N G L I S H - and quite so. I suppose that had some small role in our sharing an appreciation of the comical in every day life. That sense was really tested during these past five years. We were also possessed by an interest in peace that came from our separate exposures to the effects of the second world war and we were motivated and prepared to work for peace.

Our families did many things together in the sixties. One fall we walked together east of the city. Sylvia pointed out fossils and our children found such delights as a large snapping turtle with a leech under one leg causing a very very foul smell so the young, compassionate and fearless children removed the leech.

In 1964 Sylvia, Roy and I were part of a small group here - the Ottawa Committee for Human Rights. We supported the 'Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee - SNCC' in their struggle for civil rights for the negro people of the US South (that was before ‘black’ came into common usage for Afro-Americans), and something happened that will help others to appreciate a facet of Sylvia's character that I found wonderful and remarkable.

In March 1965 in Selma Alabama, Sheriff Clark and the forces of law and order had brutally beaten a large number of black people marching as part of a voter registration drive and the violence had brought widespread outrage in Canada as well as in the USA.

I was in Toronto on a Friday when the decision was taken by a group of young Canadians (among them Clayton Ruby) to have a demonstration in solidarity with the marchers in Selma. It was to be on Parliament Hill on Sunday (two days away). Plans included bussing people to Ottawa the next day from Toronto and Montreal. Just before leaving Toronto around 10:30 on Friday night to drive back to Ottawa I phoned Sylvia and one other person to ask that they start to organize to arrange billets for 500 people for the next night. The call was a mark of my youthful brashness but, due to Sylvia's character, she was not at all fazed by the request and, when I called her again the next morning after a short sleep, I learned that the challenging task was in hand. Not only places to sleep but also food for the throngs of visitors was arranged and provided by many Ottawa churches. The huge demonstration on ‘The Hill’ was described as the largest ever held in Ottawa. Among many MPs and dignitaries, Tommy Douglas was there.

Unbeknownst to us there was also an RCMP 'spy' whose report reads that 'Douglas was overheard planning to have lunch with James Endicott" as I recently read in the secret RCMP file on our small group from the sixties 

Her role in making that event a success was a ‘Sylvia special’. She also excelled at arranging for visiting speakers to meet members of Parliament and to get radio, television and newspaper interviews using her unique charm plus worldly savvy. It has been my privilege to have known Roy and Sylvia who now lives on in my memory, and I imagine she would appreciate just how unreliable my memory can be ! ENA 23 October 2007