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Cape Breton author, environmentalist Silver Donald Cameron dies at 82

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Author and environmentalist Silver Donald Cameron, who lived in Cape Breton, has died at the age of 82.

His niece, Amy Cameron, said her uncle died in a Halifax hospital early Monday morning after recently being diagnosed with lung cancer.

“He was first and foremost a storyteller. He was a remarkably attentive listener who was so full of engagement and curiosity and interest,” she said.

“He was just a very engaged human being who loved people and loved stories and loved hearing people’s stories.”

Donald Cameron grew up in Vancouver, later adding the Silver to the beginning of his name to distinguish him from other Donald Camerons.

Cameron and his wife, Marjorie Simmins, lived in D’Escousse on Isle Madame in Cape Breton. Cameron has five adult children, according to his website.

After sailing around Cape Breton Island in his boat Silversark, Cameron recounted his voyage in Wind, Whales and Whisky. (CBC)

Cameron was a former journalist, university teacher, playwright and documentary filmmaker. He had been a columnist for the Globe and Mail and wrote a weekly column for the Halifax Sunday Herald for 13 years.

He was the recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia in 2012, as well as awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

His latest bookBlood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes, will be available in August.

“He and those who read it felt it was among some of his best pieces of writing,” his niece said.

Cameron’s latest book, Blood in the Water, will be released this summer. (Viking, Marjorie Simmins)

Cameron both taught and was the writer-in-residence at several schools throughout Canada.

He began teaching English at the University of New Brunswick in the late 1960s, where he helped start an alternative news magazine, The Mysterious East, which ran for three years.

Last year, Cameron was appointed Cape Breton University’s first Farley Mowat Chair in Environment, something his niece said he took immense pride in, as he “loved this world and felt passionate about the environment.”

She said she hopes her uncle’s environmental work will have a lasting impact.

“He cared deeply about our country and the people in it and the people who he met,” Amy Cameron said. “He believed that he could and would and should make a difference.”

‘It sparked such joy in him’

After leaving New Brunswick, Cameron moved to Isle Madame where he hoped to become a full-time writer. His niece said the community always felt like home for her uncle.

“It sparked such joy in him,” Amy Cameron said. “I think it was because he met his tribe, he met other storytellers.”

She said she loved to hear his stories of Cape Breton and the people who lived there. She has only visited four or five times herself, but said she has an enormous affection for the area because of her uncle’s stories.

Cameron created a website devoted to in-depth conversations around the environment and made two environmental documentary films. (Silver Donald Cameron)

“My God, he loved to share stories of his life and the people that he’d met,” Amy Cameron said.

“He had such a great knack for catching a turn of phrase or describing. He would hang on to a sentence that someone said, the particular cadence and the way that they said it and the words that they used, and he could pull it back out again. And suddenly you were with him in the scene.”

Amy Cameron said her uncle was always deeply interested in others and the challenges they were facing.

“[He] was unafraid of hearing that or wading into those waters or talking about difficult subjects,” she said.

“And I find that to be one of the greatest gifts he gave to me, was listening and then sharing his own life experiences in a way that I felt heard.”

Author Silver Donald Cameron visits communities that are fighting for environmental protection rights. 45:11

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www.cbc.ca 2020-06-01 15:26:51

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