Who’da Guessed?

Chilliwack: Waterways + Activists

After relocating to the Fraser Valley in 2010, two things surprised me:
  • The Valley is vibrantly full of natural wonder – not just “in between” the coast and the interior. Where Metro Van boasts North Shore Mountains, Burrard Inlet and the ocean (!!) – Fraser Valley boasts whitewater, mountain-climbing, and scenic rivers and lakes;
  • In a region well known as “bible belt” (with its affiliated conservatism), the Valley is also home to a demographic of progressive, ecologically-aware firebrands actively interested in change for the better – a demographic I thought I’d left behind in the Metro (the wild west coast is wider than I’d imagined);
Both of those “surprises” were awakenings for me.

When my fisherman brother moved to B.C. in 2013, I dutifully took him out to a popular bend in the Chilliwack River – and finally discovered it for myself.   I had no idea . . .

Now I jump at any chance to ‘be around water’ – be it with Bro Steve , pitching in on river cleanup with Chilliwack Vedder River Cleanup Society, streamkeeping with my new friends at The WaterWealth Project, or celebrating the New Year with Skwah FN Elder Eddie Gardner on the banks of the Vedder (in his annual ceremonial tradition).

At the end of 2012, I watched a video.

A video that gained quite some notoriety, inspiring a very high-quality ‘correction’. When I saw this blatant deception video, something shifted. I got off a fence.

After decades of noticing ‘things not right’ – skewed economics favouring the 1% (that OCCUPY thing), climate change (did Al Gore just run out in front of a crowd?) – I finally decided “its time”. Nice going Enbridge.

So I engaged my shrewd research skills and Googled, well, something about pipelines and chilliwack. (Sharp as a tack.) Thanks to a post by a stranger named Sheila Muxlow, I found the PIPEUP Network. And then Farmed Salmon Boycott happened. Then The WaterWealth Project. And most recently, the Hazardous Waste Coalition.

In between, I worked as informal campaign manager for the local Green Party candidate in 2013’s Provincial Election here in B.C.   And I organized a couple of local rallies for national days of action (climate, and democracy) coordinated by Leadnow.  But pipelines and Tar Sands – and the myth pitting concerns for the environment, against “economic prosperity” – got the majority of my attention.

Zoom out to big picture:
Underpinning all the issues being tackled by those firebrands I’ve had the good fortune to hook up with – well, again two things:
  • the broken-ness of the current scene seems to arise from a common source: a kind of unbridled capitalism that sets corporate interests above governments, and views human and civil rights as expendable;
  • at the forefront of responses to the ecological and economic challenges arising from the above, are the indigenous peoples of countries and continents around the globe
That second point certainly holds true here in Canada – and again, surprise of surprises!! right here in bible belt country. I consider myself an ally-in-training in the unceded traditional territories of the Stó:lō (“People of the River“) and have worked alongside new friends such as Larry Commodore, Eddie Gardner, and Mike Goold – as well as community leaders like Grand Chief Clarence Pennier, Fisheries Advisor Ernie Crey, tribal chief Joanne Gutierrez Hugh, artist Carrielynn Victor, educators Sakej Ward + Melody Andrews, and others.

Who’da guessed…