June 6, 2018
I’m writing to you from Halifax (you know, Pier 21, the gateway to Canada from Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean), where the annual convention of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is currently in session. I have encountered elected officials from across Canada, including several from Tumbler Ridge, Taylor, Fort St. John, Vanderhoof, Prince George, Grande Prairie, and various British Columbia Regional Districts.
Since this is my first FCM, I have no baseline with which to compare its importance to Chetwynd. That said, I have already made contacts, had conversations, and raised my voice in ways that may be significant for Chetwynd’s future. Let me open with one of them:
Following a long-standing tradition of the Canadian National Railway (CN), as your Mayor I was invited to attend a CN-sponsored luncheon on May 31. The primary speaker and fielder of questions was the CN CEO. (I never cease to be impressed by the wit and intelligence of industrial CEOs, and this experience was not an exception. He seemed to be totally aware of virtually everything pertaining to his continent-spanning domain.)
My question to CN through the CEO: Given that Chetwynd occasionally experiences sustained heavy-rain events, and that millions in damage caused by the two most recent floods during these rain events was occasioned by the under-sized culverts on CN’s rail line near Spirit Park that diverted water into Chetwynd streets and businesses, and given that another sustained heavy-rain event can be anticipated, will CN undertake to replace its culverts on Windrem Creek with an adequately sized culvert before another such event?
As I left the CN luncheon, I encounter a delegate from Alberta whose experience with caribou expanded my understanding of the challenges we are facing as the Federal and Provincial Governments pursue their Caribou Recovery intentions. Without a doubt, our success in protecting our familiar living space will be directly linked to the strength of the case we can make for consideration of socioeconomic factors in the Government’s Caribou Recovery plans. People whose homes, work, and interests are within caribou habitat should be seriously concerned that these interests may be truncated.
That said, it is our own local herds, the Quintette and the Narraway that surround Tumbler Ridge and border on Chetwynd that have been named by the Federal Minister of Environment as in need of immediate protection. Therefore, the Districts of Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge, of all the forest-and-mountain-dependent communities across Canada, are the most in need of immediate protection.
In case you have missed the previous columns I have devoted to the caribou question, let me remind you that our community economies, and therefore your family support is primarily based our ability to have unrestricted access to forest and mountain.
There are those, and they are very vocal and apparently unconcerned about harm to the human species, who would cut off that access without a qualm.
It is not that we are unconcerned about the caribou. We are very much concerned about all the creatures of forest and mountain because we recognize that the entire ecosystem is vitally interconnected. Our major industries, ready and eager to work with Government, First Nations, Environmental Non-Government Organizations (ENGO), and all other stakeholders, are intensely concerned and actively seeking ways to promote caribou recovery. And it doesn’t matter whether our forest neighbours fly or creep or buzz about – or bound on all four, our stewardship reaches to them. Governments, are you listening? Do you care as much about the human species and its long-term habitat as you profess to care about other creatures?
Let’s be totally realistic if that is possible in a diverse and multifaceted society; the caribou as a species are not in imminent danger. Thousands of their numbers still seek their food and follow their instincts across the wild lands of Canada. It is certain identifiable herds in our area that are struggling and the science to understand the reasons is spotty, flawed, or non-existent. Are we as a society prepared to sacrifice the viability of whole communities in a potentially vain attempt to preserve a couple of herds? If the communities in areas shared by these herds of Central and Southern Mountain Caribou are forced to give up major capacity to generate revenue, it is not only these communities who will suffer. All British Columbia will pay the price though it is the people living in these communities who will feel the greatest pain.
Oh, by the way, “if you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.” So let’s get our heads together to find the solutions that are good for all species before it is too late for us.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor