For this Manitoba anti-bullying magician, the real trick is helping kids connect

A Manitoba magician who found solace in sleight of hand when he was bullied as a kid is using the same tools to help fight bullying in northern communities.

Brian Glow has performed for audiences around the world, and classrooms around the Northwest Territories

Brian Glow, a corporate magician and illusionist, spends as much as four months a year in remote communities in the Northwest Territories, enthralling students with magic tricks he hopes help them deal with bullying. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

A Manitoba magician who found solace in sleight of hand when he was bullied as a kid is using the same tools to help fight bullying in northern communities.

Brian Glow, a corporate magician and illusionist, has performed for audiences in 44 countries over the past 40 years. These days, he spends as much as four months a year in remote communities in the Northwest Territories, enthralling students with magic tricks he hopes help them deal with bullying.

His work with them ranges from performances to workshops on how to do the tricks and motivational speaking.

"Each trick actually has messaging in it, whether it's motivational, whether it's anti-bullying, whether it's what to look out for when someone's talking a certain way," Glow said.

"The tricks are just the vehicle."

Glow said his own love for magic was fostered when he was a kid himself, bullied relentlessly and practising magic in his room after school.

Winnipeg-based magician Brian Glow performed for children in schools across the Northwest Territories this year. 3:19

Eventually, the tricks helped him connect with his peers.

"I would come home after a time I didn't even want to be at school, I was so afraid of going. And I'd, you know, get into my bedroom, I'd start doing card tricks and coin tricks — and got very good at them because of that," he said.

"Then [I] took those to school and showed them to other people. All of a sudden, people who wouldn't even give me the time of day were interested and going, 'Oh! Do another one!' It starts a feedback loop that's positive."

Safe space to connect

Glow wants his shows to help prevent bullying and build suicide awareness. Many of the communities he works in are Inuit, and suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world at 11 times the national average, according to Statistics Canada.

He says it would be ridiculous to suggest a single solution for the diverse communities, cultures and challenges, which include the intergenerational effects of colonialism and residential schools as well as difficulties getting resources to remote locations.

Still, he hopes the shows help kids connect.

"We start doing this in a very safe space where we might have two or three kids, four kids, and teach them a bunch of things," he said. "And then they have to interact with each other — help each other."

With files from Nadia Kidwai