NICHOLS: is there anybody out there?

Those who have ears should listen. I learned that bit of wisdom from an ancient writer. We seldom pause to consider how very wise were some of those men and women – wise enough that you are reading some of their thoughts thousands of years after they were painted on goat skins or scratched into clay pads. 

But there are different degrees of listening. One can hear a sound go by and give it about as much attention as if it were the squalling of cats in the night. Just pull the covers over the head, ignore the screeching, and sleep – ah sweet-sleep, the welcome reward of hard work! That’s an appropriate response to squalling cats – unless one of them happens to be your kitty.

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Then there’s the alarm clock banging on the side of your groggy head mere minutes after you dropped it to the pillow. This racket requires a response: throw back the blankets, don’t push snooze, and hit the floor. It’s time to fuel up the carcass and get the log truck on the road. There’s a living to be made out there in the snowy (rainy, moon-lit) dark. And if not a living, at least there are bills to be paid.

A third degree of listening requires the hearer to pay attention to the source of the signal, let it sink into the consciousness, reflect on its meaning, analyze the implications of the various response options, and act.

If you have ears, then listen, analyze, reflect, act.

I took the opportunity on April 23 to listen, third degree, to a sharp exchange between the Peace River Regional District Board (PRRD) and three representatives of the Government who, apparently, are most responsible for delivering the goods to the Premier (goods: a completed Partnership Agreement on Caribou Recovery in the South Peace). These bureaucrats, led by Tom Ethier, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources, and other things related, obviously well tutored and practiced in deflecting criticism, clearly had their orders and they did not seem to include paying third-degree attention to the PRRD. 

For three and one-half hours Director Dan Rose took the lead in pointing out serious issues in the Partnership Agreement: The PRRD and municipal governments are not parties to the dispute resolution process; there are too many serious unknowns in the Partnership Agreement; the provision for indigenous guarding is an egregious mistake (“are you out of your minds?”); really, how many meters of timber will be taken from the annual allowable cut; and many other questions that received no unequivocal answer – nor could they from this level of Government authority.

With respect to the bureaucrats, they are under orders to deliver the required product to the Premier so they have to take the heat, intense though respectful, without the ability to take the necessary action to resolve the problems in which Premier Horgan has us immersed. 

As for the Premier, he also is being squeezed as I have written earlier. 

But is he listening?

Sooner or later we will know.

As I sat there mutely listening (woe is me; odd to be in the PRRD chamber again without the right to raise my voice, cry aloud, and spare not), I did have questions, some of which I’ll now share with you readers who might be able to take them to the next level.

According to Government biologists, caribou in the South Peace are making some progress in recovery. Can that progress be attributed to efforts now underway? If so, can the progress be sustained without a negative effect on our lives?

Can Treaty obligations be reconciled with obligations of Government to maintain peace, security, and the right of the entire population to occupy the land (we are all here and most of us are not going elsewhere)? I would suggest that reconciliation is possible if the Government is willing to take a progressive approach to reconciliation.

What solutions to the caribou dilemma have not been explored by the Government? Is there any approach that doesn’t harm communities but also conserves caribou? There are solutions waiting to be recognized.

Sometimes recognition of what I see requires that you stand where I am standing. Of course, the converse also applies.

If we are climbing the same mountain but you are stronger and faster than I, you and I will not see the same details; clouds and shadows will have shifted as I come up to your vantage point. But the great truths of the mountain will remain. The truth of the mountain we are climbing today is that we all live here and cherish the same land that the Creator has given us with its creatures great and small. Let’s try to look at our gift from the same perspective.

Well, I couldn’t ask questions, but noting the “answers” provided to the very incisive questioning of the PRRD, I probably returned home just as informed as if I had asked.

Oh, by the way, let me leave you with another ancient wisdom: “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish [woman] pulls it down with her own hands” Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Horgan, do you have ears?

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