Saugstad's caribou columns on the mark

Re: 'Evan Saugstad: Economics 101 coming soon to a mill near you', Opinion, May 11, 2020 & 'Evan Saugstad: Caribou politics, plain and simple', Opinion, May 15, 2020

I spoke up on Caribou Recovery many times during the closing months of my final term as Mayor of Chetwynd. Most people were not listening then.

Upon retiring I continued to write, warning of the potential economic devastation in parts of the Northeast that would be caused by the Agreement on Caribou Recovery. People started listening following the April 1, 2019, public meeting in Chetwynd with the designers and promoters of the Agreement. That meeting caused a near riot in Chetwynd. Thanks to the general civility of the populace, the only real incivility was on the Government side.

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Things have been a little quieter on caribou since spring of 2019. You’ve had time to forget. Don’t!

In reading Evan Saugstad’s two recent articles in which he analyzed the outcomes of the Caribou Recovery Agreement, now signed, that we in the Northeast can expect in the coming months, I am prompted to this recommendation: that all of you read Saugstad on Caribou Recovery. Read him now! Read him again! He is right on the mark. And then respond civilly, respectfully, but forcefully.

Everyone with a voice, and we all have voices, must raise those voices for ourselves and for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Who are those voiceless people?

Well, your children cannot yet speak for themselves. What will they say in 10 years when they discover that we did not raise our voices for them?

I suggest that if the major newspapers in the province were to receive 10- or 20,000, make that 30,000 letters, decrying the ongoing state of Government mismanagement of Caribou Recovery in the Northeast and its potential effects on you and your community – and remember, this is Government mismanagement, so try to leave out of your letters any bitter references to other parties to the agreement – these papers, at least, might sit up and take notice. And if they take notice, it just might open the eyes of people outside this area.

Some governments, more ideologically driven than others, tend to aggregate power to themselves quietly (actually, all governments need to be monitored all the time), secretly, little by little. Our present ideologically driven Government did it quietly and secretly but not little by little. This is a huge power grab that won’t reverse easily.

Our liberties as a free people have been hammered. Our rights to freedom of movement, to maintain the values of our properties, to earn decent livelihoods have been severely compromised in exchange for no real benefit to the caribou.

What’s next?

I won’t play the prophet, but you can be quite sure that a Government that will callously destroy the livelihoods of thousands on the pretext of saving a few caribou when the species is generally thriving will not stop with Caribou Recovery.

So, what’s next?

Just keep your eyes open and your ears tuned to the signals. At the very least, maintain your responsibilities as still-somewhat-free citizens with responsibilities to your community and to your posterity.

I had promised myself months ago that I would not again hold forth on Caribou Recovery so blame or credit goes to Mr. Mayor Emeritus Saugstad for provoking me to action. I think this truly will be my last effort on this file. Do what you can to get the ears of the people in the south. It’s in your hands.

Through it all, keep your humanity. Let love and compassion rule and do speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

And by the way, here are a couple of ancient wisdoms for our edification: “He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” and “ He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly.”

Merlin Nichols was mayor of Chetwynd from 2011 to 2018.

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