These are interesting times for Lake Cowichan, and interesting for me to watch as a new, almost, resident of the area. After attending the council meeting that took place on April 24, and having a chance to talk to some of the business owners in town, I find myself wondering about the direction and vision of Lake Cowichan.
This town has a unique opportunity to take advantage of its proximity to Cowichan Lake and the fact that it is, as Rita Dustow said to me in an interview, a tourist destination by default. Local business and town administrators could certainly capitalize off of this advantage. The problem lies, as I see it, in coordinating efforts in order to create a coherent and well thought out plan that engages the town, residents, and the businesses into a common goal.
I have heard some of both sides of the story, and admittedly I have much more to learn about the town, its history, and the issues that concern local residents. But from the personal stories and perspectives that I have heard, there seems to be a lack of communication between the town, the chamber, and business owners specifically when it comes to bylaws. There also seems to be this feeling, from some business owners, that town council is unfriendly towards the smaller businesses in town.
There is no doubt in my mind that Mayor Forrest and town council want to see the town prosper—their passion is evident—and being long-time members of the community, I don’t see how they could not care about the future of Lake Cowichan.
What made me really start to think about this though, was listening to Ideas on the CBC. Producer David Caley spoke with Nils Christie, a criminal psychologist in Norway about the massacre that took place there in June of 2011. Christie talked about how language can be used to distance ourselves from the other and that this distancing causes us to see the other as foreign, wrong, and not one of “us.” Christie believes that using simple language creates inclusiveness instead of exclusivity.
I found this philosophy interesting after having sat in on the council meeting on Tuesday and familiarizing myself with the procedure, language, and format of the meeting, as well as watching the ways in which the chamber presented its concerns and was responded to by the mayor and council. It is apparent that both parties care a great deal about the town and its future, and yet it is also apparent that there is a gap between them, a gap that only serves to keep them distanced from each other and which in the end means that no-one is really heard.