As a writer, I believe that on the whole, writers, particularly seasoned ones, should be avoided at all cost. We are a moribund faction, convinced that the world might (or should) be interested in our opinions and how delicately or smartly we might try to express them. And we are viciously competitive, as we treat each encounter with a new pen-in-town as a barometer to our own flimsy genius. It is bloody and horrific.
The joyous flip side to this putrid clique is the virginal newcomer, the grubby misfit, the grinning rogue. I limit my literary friendships to these eager debutants. These runts-on-the-rise (these ragtags and scrag-ends, as we say in Yorkshire) are far more fun. These are the professionally unsoiled, hymen intacto, still keen to impress the smug gatekeeper (read, talentless agents, for if they were that good, they'd be doing it themselves) and pierce the lofty, elevated citadel of the king-maker publisher.
Last month in Barbados, I was introduced to one such grand ragamuffin, whose own narrative arc was that of a precipitous gradient and a tingling redemption, guaranteed to satisfy the box-tickers in the formulae-dependent fiction department. Wilmont St. Cyr, with his thoroughly engaging, beguiling and turquoise Caribbean lilt, was five days short of his fiftieth birthday, but seemed closer to thirty-five, even more impressive when a sliver short of a decade had been spent in a harsh maximum security prison, following his conviction for possession of firearms in 2004. A further twenty-year stretch was avoided, after he proved his own innocence when his jail was razed to the ground.
In 2008, St. Cyr started to write. He says, "I always wanted to do something significant in my life, and needed to tell my life story. I never felt like a bad person, only unfortunate. So, I decided to write. Writing became an oasis for me. During my incarceration, it helped me to envision every aspect of the human journey, inside and outside of the law. To embrace my captors and my misfortune. It miraculously created that 'silver lining' behind those dark clouds of prison life."
Then, a Canadian initiative proved to be the next glorious fulcrum in St. Cyr's life. The "Reintegration Program" cost the Barbadian government a hefty sum, and it was a controversial, yet sophisticated and enlightening procurement. St. Cyr recognises that it was his Canuck tutors, who gave him the psychological tools to make wise life choices in his future.
The warders were empowered by the course to then instruct inmates themselves. Here St. Cyr learned job etiquette, money management, and parenting (St. Cyr is now a father).
In June 2012, he was released from prison. He has now written five books. His first one, Fields of Death, an award-winning tale of the gruesome cane-field murders that haunted the paradise isle, was published. He has followed these up with a historical thriller, a medical thriller based on the Ebola virus, another cop tale on the same character as his debut, and an autobiography. He is currently writing his sixth; on human trafficking, while completing an online writing course with the prestigious University of East Anglia in England.
He has since used his experience to pass his message of rehabilitation and redemption to others at risk; his younger self, if you will.
"I have helped numerous people, because of my writing, including school students ranging from 11 to 17 years old, and many adults nationwide from my interviews on television and radio, lecturing in schools and even churches. Most importantly, to youths and adults in communities troubled by gun violence."
He was then invited to appear at the Toronto Urban Book Expo on February 13th, 2016 at the Toronto public library. He was asked by Stacey Marie Robinson of Kya Publishing, who host the yearly event.
St. Cyr explains, "I boarded the flight from Bridgetown. I had documentation from Kya and correspondence with my sponsors, the (BIDC) Barbados Investment and Development Co-operation, who had paid for my flight and accommodation. I also took correspondence with the Consul General of Barbados, Haynesley Benn, who was to meet me at the airport. I carried fifty copies of my book and my proof as a registered businessman (author). I even had advertisements from Kya, announcing my appearance. I travelled as a commonwealth national from Barbados to Canada."
St. Cyr was denied entry to Canada. He told me of one guard's overt and nasty intimidation. He was forced on to a plane the next morning, and shipped unceremoniously back to Barbados.
"We protect the lives of animals, until they can return to their natural habitat. Prison reminds me of that. That's how I felt that cold night in February at the airport. Like an animal. I am an author, an artist, a human being. Not a threat," he says.
"Fields of Death would have been the only book from the Caribbean to be featured at the event.
It is ironic is that the same country (Canada), who helped me so much, then shunned me."
So, at a time when much of the world's attention is focused on U.S. borders, here is a tale of one man rejected by the Canada of Mister Trudeau and his inclusive, tolerant, and progressive ideals.
I, for one, would welcome St. Cyr into my home with my children, were he to be invited back.
St. Cyr was given a second chance. Then denied one. Mister Trudeau, St. Cyr is forgiving enough to give YOU a second chance.
"Yes, I would surely return to Canada if given the opportunity. I came to Canada that day to fulfill a remarkable opportunity, that I knew one day could inspire a bad person to change, give a good person hope, and to prove the greatest talents can be found in the most remarkable of places. Like prison."
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