Judy Kucharuk: An apology to a former mayor

judy

I owe Merlin Nichols, the former mayor of Chetwynd, an apology. 

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Last year, I moderated a conversation between the then mayors of Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, and Chetwynd, including elected officials from the regional district. Merlin Nichols, as mayor of Chetwynd, was participating in the panel and as we gathered moments before the session was to begin, Mr. Nichols broached the topic of the Species at Risk Act and the discussion about caribou.

Unfortunately, the session previous to the panel had gone long and, as a result, our session needed to be contained in a very brief 15-20 minutes. We had no time to talk about the Act and the caribou recovery strategy being drafted at the time. Hindsight is 20/20.

Mr. Nichols, I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t have the time to address this very important issue. I’m sorry we missed an opportunity to find out more about this speeding, out-of-control train heading towards our communities.

In retrospect, I believe you must have left that panel conversation very frustrated. As I come to understand the situation and the draft agreement for the caribou recovery, I think back to that afternoon and how you must have felt: You had information, you were trying to sound the alarm bells, but no one was listening.

I discounted the importance of the conversation because I didn’t know what it was about and, as a result, I stayed in the dark regarding the caribou recovery strategy until someone else tried to explain.

“You mean this isn’t only about people not being able to snowmobile in the mountains?”

No, this issue is much more complex and dynamic than snowmobilers not being able to go to their favourite hillside to recreate.

This is about our economy. This is about restricting industry. This is about our communities. This is about the way of life that we know, as it exists today in Northeast British Columbia.

This is like lights on versus lights off. 

Last week, Mr. Nichols wrote in his weekly column via this newspaper (visit alaskahighwaynews.ca/opinion) that, “Chetwynd is the hardest hit by the draft agreement. I put this in present tense because it’s already happening. The pain is real. The tears flow. The fear grips our guts. The Community Carved by Success is reeling with uncertainty.”

It’s true. The fear is real. A little girl told me last week that she was afraid that her Dad would lose his job as a result of this agreement. She wondered what she and her family would do if that were to happen. 

How do you reassure a child that everything is going to be OK when everything you have heard to this point results in the opposite?

Forgive me, Mr. Nichols. You tried to sound the alarm that day and if we could go back in time, I would gladly revisit that moment on the stage. 

There is still time for all of us to review the draft agreement. There is still time for us to let our elected officials know how we feel about this life altering agreement. 

This is important – make the time.

Judy Kucharuk is a lover of sarcasm, witty people and footnotes.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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