Bringing British Columbians together one conversation at a time

The movement to put British Columbians’ interests before corporate interests never rests and one-on-one conversations are its lifeblood.

While many British Columbians were on vacation this summer, summer canvassers Arie Ross and Alain Ndayishimiye have been hard at work hitting the streets in a continued effort to protect our coast – funded by generous donations from Dogwood supporters.

Ross and Ndayishimiye both share a passion for strengthening local control over our lands and resources, though each was drawn to the issue for their own reasons.

Ross grew up in Tsawwassen where she spent summers swimming, skim boarding and boating with friends at Centennial Beach. Island getaways were a staple of her childhood and the natural beauty of B.C. became the foundation of her life.

From 2010 to 2011 Ross studied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and it was her experience away that crystallized her feelings about home – specifically the outcome of the 2011 federal election.

“At that point I realized that I couldn’t just stay in the UK as a spectator to what was occurring in my home country. I felt a draw to help preserve the values that I felt Canada, or at least British Columbia, had instilled in me – a commitment to environmental stewardship, social justice and equality.

“I believe it takes leaving a place to realize how important and valuable home really is. When I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, I become more heavily invested in Canadian politics and environmental issues.”

Topping the list of Ross’ highlights this summer was attending the Metro Vancouver hearings where the board voted to oppose coal port expansions.

“We heard from over 40 delegates over seven hours. It was an extremely long day but that symbolic victory really helped to motivate and encourage me to do my utmost to stop the expansion of coal exports through B.C. ports,” she says.

In contrast to Ross, Ndayishimiye was born in Rwanda and grew up in Tanzania and later Malawi before moving to Canada in 2008.

He has extensive canvassing and fundraising experience and has worked with groups such as DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, an immigrant service society based in Surrey, as well as various charities through Public Outreach and World University Services of Canada.

“I find the work quite challenging, but also greatly rewarding. I believe people should have a voice in what happens in their communities. We are very lucky to live in a country where we have representatives to carry that voice for us but often that’s not enough,” Ndayishimiye says.

Ndayishimiye emphasizes the importance of bridging the gap between decision-makers and every day British Columbians.

“There are a lot of things that happen in this province that people are not aware of – let alone have a say in – and yet these are things that significantly impact our day-to-day lives. I think that needs to change.”

Ndayishimiye’s highlight this summer was canvassing for Dogwood’s coal campaign at White Rock beach on Canada Day.

“We got to connect with people who were genuinely worried about the impact of coal trains in their community. We had great conversations with people from different backgrounds, some who knew a lot more than we did and others who didn’t know much,” he says.

Ndayishimiye is also inspired by those folks who’ve signed up to volunteer with Dogwood.

“The one thing I am looking forward to the most is seeing how this movement will evolve. We’ve met so many people along the way and some have pledged to do more. I am excited to see their journey in this movement.”

Ndayishimiye and Ross began canvassing with a goal to collect 5,000 petition signatures this summer and so far they’ve collected more than 4,200. Keep your eyes peeled for them at locations throughout B.C.’s Lower Mainland as they continue their work into the fall.

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