Now that I’ve been living away (and I expect to be back in Burns Lake very soon, so please save my Christmas present) I certainly have a new perspective on our community.
Over the last few months I’ve been explaining to my family and friends in Brazil why I chose to live in a British Columbia village called Burns Lake (I even made a Power Point presentation with maps and photos I took over the winter).
When my friends come over for a beer (expecting to have fun) I take them by surprise with my Power Point presentation. Then I walk them through the Canadian political system for the next 45 minutes (not surprisingly, some of these friends were “too busy” to see me again).
In fact, after a few months back in Brazil, some of my friends would start rolling their eyes every time I started a sentence with “did you know that in Canada…”
But explaining the Canadian political system was the easy part (except for my mother who can’t seem to grasp the role of the Queen of England).
The most difficult part has been to explain why I want to live in a town of about 3500 in Northern B.C. The main concern that some of my friends and family have is that Burns Lake is “small and remote” (perhaps I should point out that in Brazil we call cities of 200,000 “small towns,” partly because our biggest city, Sao Paulo, has over 20 million people).
It has been difficult to explain to my friends and family why being in Burns Lake does not feel “remote.”
One thing I learned for sure in Northern B.C. was to be more connected to nature. This might sound weird, but I pay much more attention to trees and my surroundings now, and I notice that my old friends don’t have the same perception.
But the best thing about Burns Lake and other great communities in Canada is their strong sense of community.
Sadly, where I live now, even small communities have a “don’t trust your next door neighbour attitude,” and we certainly don’t have community initiatives like we see in Burns Lake.
Every year Lakes District residents are able to raise thousands of dollars for a number of different initiatives – providing food for families in need, helping someone who needs a certain medical treatment, and even helping out people in other countries.
But maybe the thing that impresses me the most is the ability that Burns Lake residents have to come together when something tragic happens or when something needs to change.
Since the board of directors of the College of New Caledonia decided to transfer all family programs offered in Burns Lake to other agencies, the community has really come together to ensure services are not lost.
Residents have been really organized and are demanding answers from government.
Mayor Luke Strimbold, along with a group of concerned Burns Lake residents, recently travelled to Victoria to speak directly to the B.C. minister of children and family development, who oversees the transfer of family programs.
Burns Lake council also met with the B.C. premier and other cabinet ministers in September and even proposed the creation of a rurally focussed community college serving the Lakes and Nechako regions. Since a loss or change in service structure could significantly impact Burns Lake, Strimbold said the loss of these services is simply not acceptable.
It’s this kind of attitude that makes this community great. We don’t simply stand still while services get taken away from us. We fight for this community.