The Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) are hosting a meeting in Courtenay for several groups concerned with protecting our environment and parks. Executive members from the various groups will discuss ways and means for encouraging governments to deal better with fragile natural areas.
Some recent happenings which have prompted the coming discussion are threats of increased logging and mining in Clayoquot Sound, and harmful commercial activity in the Bedwell Valley area of Strathcona Park. Discussion topics will include possible court proceedings against the government, alliances with native groups, and the pros and cons of civil disobedience. Non-violence workshops will be on the agenda. One thing that won’t be on the agenda is politics. Karl Stevenson, a director for FOSP, says FOSP is strictly non-political because no government, at least so far, has shown itself to be much better than another when it comes to respecting the environment.
In 1988, the Social Credit government threw open large areas of Strathcona Park to commercial/ industrial exploitation. This sparked a blockade lasting several months and resulting in huge publicity and a subsequent reversal of government actions. In the election which followed, the Socreds lost to the NDP. Ironically, the NDP promptly went down an almost identical path and suffered much the same fate when they announced major logging plans for Clayoquot Sound. The public once again turned out in force, hundreds of arrests attracted worldwide publicity, and the NDP reversed its position, but not before it was badly hurt politically. Although these civil disobedience actions had favourable results for the environment, they were very costly for all concerned, including the governments, and no one wants a repeat. One major purpose for the upcoming meeting is to fully explore all other possible options.
In regard to non-violence training, Stevenson says, “One of the biggest truths about the Strathcona Blockade is that it was absolutely no fun. We tried very hard to avoid that blockade, and we definitely don’t want another. But one thing that kept things so totally peaceful in 1988 was the non-violence training we received beforehand. If people feel compelled to stand up for the park again, there may be little time for training. If we train now and never need it, that’s great. In fact, we couldn’t hope for anything better.”
The January meeting is intended as an intensive strategy and training session, involving only the executive members of FOSP and other participating groups. It will form the basis for future workshops and meetings, open to all who wish to attend.
For more information: friendsofstrathcona.org
Bob St. John