One year ago today, I was in the Shawnigan Lake Museum when my phone rang, and everything changed.
I had been meeting with two of the “Ladies of the Lake” to talk about the Shawnigan Gathering – which had taken place the weekend before – and to begin to discuss the theme for the next year’s event.
I had begun to refer to the small group of women who had gotten together at the Chippery every Monday morning for months on end as the “Ladies of the Lake” – the women who contributed their time and energy to plan, organize, and bring to life the community events that bring us together in celebration on a regular basis. I saw them as the small, quiet heartbeat at the core of Shawnigan – committed to continuously breathing life into the community.
I had been elected in November 2014, and by March the Ladies of the Lake had worked with many in the community to help pull together Christmas in the Village, Family Day, and the Shawnigan Gathering.
We were heading into spring with a growing sense of optimism and hope developing in Shawnigan as we came together to celebrate, to remember, and most importantly, to dream. At the Gathering, much of the dreaming was focused on the Elsie Miles Park, and the visions were in technicolour.
All though this period, there was nonetheless a cloud hanging over Shawnigan – the prospect of a contaminated landfill being approved at the SIA quarry on Stebbings Rd. We all knew that our fate in many ways was in the hands of three members of the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB), and that at any time they could deliver a decision that would impact our lives enormously.
And on the afternoon of Friday March 20, 2015, that decision came down from the EAB.
Suddenly, the dreams were set aside, and in their place there was a nightmare.
Our gatherings were no longer to be in celebration. We have come together over this past year in worry, in frustration, in anger, and in protest. Through four seasons we have continued to come together, time after time, steadily building our resolve as a community, making it clear that we have a future that we want to build, and that our future cannot be imposed on us by one company and the provincial government.
Ultimately, we have come together, over and over again, in solidarity.
It has been a long, hard year. There is a pervasive weariness in Shawnigan, a deep-rooted tiredness that has settled upon us. Despite this, we carry on, organizing the next fundraiser, the next event, getting ourselves to the next meeting. We have woven into the fabric of the community a relentlessness kind of determination, which I believe will long outlast this particular battle.
This determination is one of many positive outcomes. We are a unified community, we have learned how to effectively work together, we have gotten to know each other, we have rooted ourselves in compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and generosity, we have continuously adapted to shifting circumstances, and we have developed and nurtured incredible strength and tenacity.
We have made it abundantly clear that there is no giving up. We intend to protect our watershed, no matter how long it takes to achieve that goal.
I have asked of you many times to “stay strong, Shawnigan.” I am perpetually humbled by the strength of so many individuals, and by the collective strength of this whole community, and I have turned to so many of you for strength at times when I have needed it most.
And in this nightmare, we have not stopped dreaming. We came together to preserve and protect Mt Baldy in perpetuity, and we have found moments to remember to gather in celebration. And so often, we’ve talked about all of the positive achievements we will be able to accomplish once this nightmare is over.
So let’s remember to keep dreaming, to keep building, and above all, to keep believing that we will succeed in protecting our watershed and our drinking water from a threat that should never have been imposed on us in the first place.
This sad anniversary is also the first day of spring.
Let’s look forward to a true renewal and rebirth, when we will be able to come together to celebrate the end of this long, hard “winter of our discontent.”
Stay strong, Shawnigan.