Dateline Cowichan 2002: Women make their presence felt

Barb Lines (left) and Ruth Hartmann joined Jean Crowder on a 2002 North Cowichan council that had its largest female presence ever. - News Leader Pictorial file
Barb Lines (left) and Ruth Hartmann joined Jean Crowder on a 2002 North Cowichan council that had its largest female presence ever.
— image credit: News Leader Pictorial file

My recent research on gender in politics and a visit last month to a North Cowichan council meeting sent me scurrying to the museum archives.

That confirmed the four women at the table are the largest group of females on council since North Cowichan was incorporated in 1873. The previous record was in 2002 when Ruth Hartmann, Barb Lines and Jean Crowder were elected. In December that year, they were asked by the Leader to comment on the milestone.

Crowder, then a human resources consultant, said age and professional visibility may have made a difference. “We’re all active working women, when in the past, council has been predominantly made up of older retired people.” Lines, who, at the time was principal at Drinkwater Elementary School was glad there were more women. “But the bottom line is we’re individuals, and we’re coming to the council table with diverse skills and life experiences.” Hartmann, a past community development co-ordinator for Future Corp Cowichan, said the strong female presence on council said more about informed votes than about gender equality. “It’s a new choice for citizens seeking change,” she said.

Women were far better at building consensus, commented Mayor Jon Lefebure.


2002: honours

Former Cowichan chief Dennis Alphonse received the City of Duncan’s scroll of honour and noted he risked $300 on his campaign to become the first Cowichan Tribes member elected to council in 1978.


2002: steelhead

With the Chemainus River considered at high risk for steelhead extinction and the Koksilah River at moderate risk, both rivers were closed to fishing for steelhead until the following summer.


2002: ferries

The provincial government announced it was considering privatization of some routes during its five-year restructuring of B.C. Ferries but planned to retain the Salt Spring, Kuper and Thetis Island schedules.

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