An open letter

The talks on the possible Port Hardy/Bella Coola ferry closure are disturbing to us, to say the least. We are heavily invested in tourism here in the Chilcotin and we are continuing to invest in BC’s largest industry. You are probably well aware of the migration of people towards the north. What is not so obvious is the total by-pass of the Chilcotin by this economic thrust.

Eagle Lake in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region of BC
Eagle Lake in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region of BC

A shortage of continuing industry has been depopulating the Chilcotin – a fact that is weighing on the locals and a fact we are trying to counteract vehemently. Tourism here feeds on breathtaking – as well as subtle – scenery and in combination with the ‘western image’ of ranching sells well.

In contrast to tourism and ranching, and its annually renewable resource of grass, the other resource-based booms created by large-scale logging and mining can be impressive but always only in the short-run; neither are appealing to the modern world traveller and never do they leave behind continuum.

The comprehensive round trip from the Island to the west coast or from metropolitan Vancouver on through an enticing countryside to Bella Coola, with an anticipated visit to charming Victoria, is a most inviting way to leave behind domestic, foreign and mostly private wealth and includes a lot of people living on reservations. Fact is the population on the reservations is the only one growing in the Chilcotin. These people’s need to integrate into economic development, social wellbeing and stability is no less than all other Chilcotin residents’ needs and the single biggest boost towards this development was the introduction of the ferry service in question now.

Service-oriented infrastructure like lodges, restaurants, processing and packing facilities, fuelling stations and stores, have sprung up over recent years, bringing work and financial security to many Chilcotin families and thus establishing a sense of worth and direction. All this happened as a result of the ferry service.

What do you imagine the Chilcotin will be like in another generation with this evolution being shocked to a stop? And you, as the elected leaders of our beloved Province, consider closing a service so very promising and proving to be essential to the betterment of your people?

Finally, we are seeing substantial investments in this area, with not only the “to be exported” dollar as the bottom line but also with a good measure of sustainability and a bit of sorely needed culture, moving away from subsidized welfare towards livelihoods that are worked for and ultimately earned.

I remember well Victoria’s promise to earmark surplus logging revenues from the Chilcotin for the Chilcotin. Alas, these dollars were spent on the magnificent Port Mann Bridge. I am not complaining but reminding and by doing so I hope to touch on human decency and the strong belief in democracy so ingrained in the people of this Province.

– Felix Schellenberg, Redstone, BC,

photo of Eagle Lake © Stefan Pircher

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