Close to 300 people attended a public forum on the proposed national park reserve in the South Okanagan – Similkameen at the Sonora Centre on Tuesday evening. (Vanessa Broadbent / Osoyoos Times)
By Dale Boyd
The national park debate continues, as does Parks Canada’s efforts to create the park.
I can’t be the only one exasperated.
Unfortunately, life is full of complexity and complication, and yes-or-no debates are great for stoking division and not much else. While “yes park” and “no park” signs litter the landscape, some showing the age of the debate in their worn-out edges and letters, it is hard not to draw comparisons to, let’s say, Brexit.
Local conservation groups argue “no park” is a reductive term for their goals, I’m inclined to agree, but there are also the recent comments by Osoyoos Indian Band chief Clarence Louie which draw some doubt over how co-operative this amalgamation of conservationists could be.
With nearly 300 attending the open-mic forum this week, interest is obviously high. Parks Canada has managed to be obtuse and seemingly transparent at the same time. The organization has met with stakeholders and has had a campaign for input by the public. The impression that they didn’t show up to this forum to avoid questioning seems convenient for narrative purposes, but doesn’t really paint the full picture.
Parks Canada can do all the consultation they want, but they aren’t beholden to that input.
There are calls for a referendum, however it was curious to note what MP Richard Cannings said Tuesday regarding the Bowen Island referendum not to be included in a national park, which has been held up as precedent for our community to do the same.
The only problem with that, aside from the fact referendums are expensive, is that the Bowen Island regional district was holding a referendum to offer up their land to the park, not quite the same. I’m inclined to agree with Cannings that a referendum would only accomplish making “half the people in this valley very upset,” and not much else.
However, there is a chance for a referendum, cost-free for our town (in a sense). Ask your local candidates in the upcoming election what their views on the national park are. Then vote.
Parks Canada is a federal institution and we have a federal election coming up. The voice one has in democracy doesn’t end when the decision is made. Protests, phone calls, volunteerism, activism. These are all tools in the chest of a democratic society that don’t disappear, and the system is designed for mailable change.
You will never get me to say I’m pro-park or anti-park because it is a complex question that doesn’t deserve a yes-or-no answer, but I will always disagree with irrational doom and gloom about the permanence of these decisions. That is the beauty of democracy.