Testing the Waters in Fort St. John

As much as we are buoyed up by our successes during these early months of the Let BC Vote campaign, many of us would admit to a lingering doubt about our ability to organize effectively in B.C.’s northeast. When I attended a few classes at UBC again recently, one of my professors went so far as to say that in his opinion the campaign was ill-founded because we would not be successful in these ridings.

So when I heard of Celine’s plan to travel through Dawson Creek and Fort St John, I asked if I could tag along, eager to “see” for myself.

What we found during the six days I spent in the Peace has for me put these concerns to rest. Indeed, organizers in these areas, particularly in the North Peace, face significant challenges. The omni-present gas and oil industry will definitely limit the number of “friendly” audiences and community events available to our teams in the north. However, in a few short days not only were we able to drum up enough people to attend meetings in both Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, but 2 people in each area took ownership of the task of organizing a team, giving us one in the South Peace riding, and one in the North Peace.

As many of you will agree, the most rewarding part of the job of organizing comes in that pivotal moment when people realize they want to commit to working with us. People are feeling powerless and overwhelmed, and the logic of using the citizens’ initiative to help fellow citizens find their voices is a welcome revelation. Their eyes light up, and they calmly begin brainstorming a way forward for reaching out to supporters in their communities.

In Dawson Creek as well as in Fort St. John, there were these same “Aha” moments. As Celine mapped out our plan for the coming months, as well as the long-term, mountain-top goal of a functioning democracy for our province, you could see the wheels turning. People all over the province “get it”.  The Northern Gateway is our galvanizing issue, and once we achieve our goal of stopping it, we will have found our voices.

And there will be no stopping us.

Some of my favourite moments from my time in the Peace:

  • Spark-eyed farmers weathered from long seasons in the sun, calm and thoughtful, moving as those “of the land”
  • Being invited to stay in her home by wonderful Danielle, at the end of our first five minute phone conversation
  • Being hosted to a lunch of lentil soup and tuna sashimi (who knew?!) by wise Arthur, just hours before he was to leave on an international trip
  • A sunset tour of Peace Energy’s beautiful and well-executed wind project near Dawson Creek, now supplying power for 35,000 homes
  • Don and Barb, for their generosity, their support, their off-the-grid lifestyle, their bountiful garden, their wisdom
  • Learning from “Tall Tom” and his wise Aunt Doris, Soto people from near Moberly Lake who explained their discomfort with the concept of “power” in our terms of reference
  • Auntie Doris’s closing prayer in Cree
  • Seeing for ourselves the land at stake at the proposed Site C dam site
  • “What took us so long to come to the Peace?” asked one longtime Dogwood supporter in Fort St. John
  • Jen’s passion for door-knocking, Tanya’s invitation to go horseback riding, “cold winters, warm people”, Rolla Pub-owner Patty’s stories…

So varied in our backgrounds and circumstances, we are all united in our commitment to work hard to reclaim our democracy.

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