FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Frances Wright
February 3, 2015
Describing the 'why' of her work, she says, “I want to build a better nation.”
I met Frances briefly at a luncheon – her organization, the Canadian Centre for Male Survivors of Child Sexual Assault (cc4ms) were having one of those chicken-luncheon fund raisers. You know the scenario … quick handshakes in the scrum by the registration desk in the Palliser lobby, and then just as quickly, that charming smiling face you barely met moves on to work the room. Just like politics – where she’s been at home for a very long time, Frances has been very ably working rooms for a long time. Hardly what you’d expect from someone who describes herself as a shy child focused on dogs, books and piano.
Before there was a Canadian Centre for Male Survivors of Child Sexual Assault (she’s driving force, CEO and chief advocate), or a Famous 5 Foundation(which she also founded), there was a beginning and a middle. It seems the middle is still going with no end in sight. I sat down recently for an in-depth exploration of the little girl from East London, South Africa.
Before that, her parents were a fascinating story too: Irma was an RCAF member whose roommate was a nurse. Frank was a wounded POW recovering in London. Nurse introduced patient to roommate …
Frances Wright is the eldest of three, born in South Africa – moved with her family when apartheid became law there in 1953 – Frances was six (oops, I guess I’ve revealed a secret). She’s never been back!On arriving in Hamilton her father didn’t like it much. Didn’t like Regina any better, but someone suggested Calgary – close to mountains, an opportunity to (with Cameron Milliken, Ray Hugo and others) found the Calgary Rugby Union - and Calgary became home.
Richmond Road School, Viscount Bennett High, U of C (B.A.), Carleton (B. Hons. Journalism) …one of the first ‘gate girls’ at the zoo (summer job in U of C days), and more recently an Honourary Doctorate at U of Cwould seem to skate over the fun stuff – working on Parliament Hill, ‘not testing well’, and appeals to the dean at Carleton. Amusing stories, Liberal party politics, Trudeau (the first one), running for office unsuccessfully, CBC stint as a journalist, stockbroker (“making money for strangers and losing money for friends and family – it just wasn’t me”), franchise retailer (remember Ports International in Mount Royal Village).
Heroes?“Nellie McClung, Nelson Mandela, Oskar Schindler … he said: I wish I’d done more”.
Why are you working with male survivors? “About the time when Theo Fleury went public, that was when I got interested and involved. It was the Penn State issue and a request from someone on Theo'd board. The poor amount of resources for male victims vs. female victims showed that needs were not being served. One in six men under the age of eighteen has been sexually abused! And there are only four treatment centres in Canada. That’s not fair. Survivors feel shame.That’s not fair.”
“I never saw myself as married, but I wanted kids.” She has no children, is married to Calgary City Councillor Richard Pootmans (“he kept coming round for dinner to talk politics with my mom”) and little, it appears, has held her back or stood in her way. She seems to be at a mid-point rather than nearing retirement. Her thoughts on retirement …. “re-fire, not retire”.
I asked Frances how she sees her businesses – community activist - over the next quarter?
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