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Passages: Remembering a fellow writer, and friend

Alberta Prime Times columnist Etty Cameron passed away unexpectedly in mid-January, at age 85. Her generous spirit and thought-provoking writings won't be forgotten.

In the brief twenty months Etty Cameron was a columnist for Alberta Prime Times, (2020-2022), she wrote about thought-provoking issues including the missing and lost children associated with Canada’s residential schools, the Black Lives Matter movement, International Women’s Day and the gig economy in a post-pandemic world. 

But the long-time Alberta teacher, author, and athlete (who competed—and won—in the Alberta Seniors Games and, in fact, started the game of netball in Edmonton) was also a mother to two sons and three grandsons, a choir member and dancer at Heritage Festivals, and a regular volunteer with the Edmonton Caribbean Cultural Association and Jamaica Association of Northern Alberta. Etty’s faith was her strength, and she was a devoted Christian and active member of her faith community too. 

In what was her final column for Alberta Prime Times in January 2022, Etty called on readers to educate themselves about Black History Month, particularly the contributions Caribbean teachers made to the province after being recruited to Alberta in the late 1960s. 

In the piece Etty wrote for “And Still We Rise: A Black Presence in Alberta”--an exhibit through Edmonton City as Museum Project (ECAMP, citymuseumedmonton.ca), Etty recalled that period of immigration to Alberta in her story titled ‘Vivacious Caribbean Teachers’. I hope everyone will read the article, and how Etty used the piece to shine light on the achievements of others who followed a similar path to her own on coming to Alberta.  

As her editor at Alberta Prime Times, I was fondest of the stories I had to coax Etty to write—about going home to Jamaica for her sister's funeral, and about what her first winter in Alberta was like, coming from a tropical climate to the inhospitable cold of a Canadian winter on the prairies. She did not want to talk or write much about herself, preferring to share the spotlight with others in her community. It was Etty’s way; I came to find out.  

Mrs. C. was a fine writer and a wicked Scrabble player; a strong woman and encouraging soul who patiently humoured me when I asked about the types of Jamaican dishes she prepared and welcomed me to share a fish meal or to take some of the rhubarb growing alongside her Sherwood Park home. 

I am grateful I got to know Etty Cameron even a little—enough to see she lived her life and faith with truth, grace and dignity. Her generous spirit and sly laugh won't be forgotten. And I'm glad her writings will remain--part of the legacy of a thoughtful, inspiring woman.