General News · 4th July 2012
In her Tideline Update of the June 19 Island Timberlands Public Meeting the writer describes a respectful three hour meeting with an atmosphere of respectfulness and attentive listening by all. It sounds like a real chicken soup for the soul.
My family regularly visits Cortes Island and have heard about the opposition to IT logging. We were in the area and two of us went to the meeting to learn more. The Update says about a hundred people from Cortes were there. From Cortes - must be a catch all for everyone in the hall, residents, visitors, seasonal workers,and one or two barking dogs. We arrived in time to hear an explanation of the meeting format
by an IT representative.
The Updater writes it was the strong sentiment in the Gorge Hall that the form for the remainder of the meeting be one of a collective discussion for all present, rather than dispersing to talk with individual IT staff, to which IT agreed. IT planned for their six representatives to answer questions after dividing the audience into groups. A good idea and less intimidating for shy people reluctant to speak in a big crowd. More people would get a chance to speak too. During the format explanation a man interrupted, he didn't want small group discussions so it should be changed. The woman who later wrote the Update volunteered to make a speaker list. The IT representative replied politely she would see how things go, and continued patiently pointing out on maps the numerous changes the company had made in their cutblock plans amid rude scoffing and snorting sounds from the audience. We really weren't prepared for the audience spectacle. Noisy clapping and foot stamping interrupted speakers but there weren't any guitars or flamenco dancers. A sign was posted, no cameras or filming. A man ran his video recorder nonstop at the front of the room and
several cameras were visible. Several courteous speakers seemed sincere but there wouldn't be any Oscars for the aggressive individuals whose demands were coated with syrupy politeness. IT should hand over for free the land called Whaletown Commons. We were all standing on traditional aboriginal territory, big picture shouldn't they get first dibs?
Occasionally the busy woman with the speaker list had to remind a few loudmouths to show respect. A mother fought tears and prompted her young daughter to step up and hand her artwork to IT reps. There was no mistaking the intense atmosphere in the room. The line had been drawn in the sand and that little girl refused to cross it. We were moved to reconsider our donation to saving Cortes forests for a children's Trust. Instead our money's going to Save the Children Fund.
It was a surprise when IT announced only four residents had applied for work when logging begins. With a group of organized small protestants -not the religion- breathing down their necks those four residents are very brave. The meeting left me with a creepy feeling there was foul play in the air. Hopefully everyone smiles at the picketers come September. It's a shame tourists like us will be seriously turned off by any confrontations especially after shelling out megabucks for ferry rides.
Cortes Island is one of our favourite places and we've seen a lot of logging where today new forests homes and families are growing up. If the contempt played out at the meeting is an example of a respectful peaceful community, kinder residents better head for the hills. Intolerance shouldn't be acceptable especially at a public information meeting. Our applause is for the staff of Island Timberlands for their respect and civility.