Speaker’s Corner kicks off season

Diverse lineup of guests booked for Speaker's Corner series for the first half of 2014.

PORT McNEILL—With the twin goals of fostering the spiritual well-being of the North Island and exploring the possibility of alternate economies, members of the United Anglican Church in Port McNeill have booked a diverse lineup of guests for its Speaker’s Corner series for the first half of 2014.

And they hope the discussion prompted by the likes of Randy Bell, Alexandra Morton, Colleen McCormick, Graham McDonald and Debbie Anderson will lead to a rousing panel discussion to close the series in June.

Speaker’s Corner is a once-a-month opportunity for residents to hear a regional expert share views in interactive discussions on topics that directly impact the North Island culture and economy. The winter-spring series follows a brief fall schedule that included discussions on humpback whale research by Jackie Hildering and on killer whale research at OrcaLab on Hanson Island, led by Dr. Paul Spong.

“The rubric (of the series) is the well-being of the North Island,” said Wade Allen, who serves as church pastor for congregations in Port McNeill, Port Alice and Port Hardy. “It’s taken a little while to get it organized — to go where we want to go and do what we want to do with it.”

Speaker’s Corner is hosted by St. John Gualbert Church (known as the A-Frame) in Port McNeill, but it’s strictly a secular affair. All are welcome, and no admission is charged — though donations are welcome, and go to aid the work of that night’s speaker.

The 2014 series begins Jan. 23 at 7 p.m., when Randy Bell of the ‘Namgis First Nation discusses Sacred Salmon and its role in the culture of local first nations. Bell’s discussion will follow a screening of the documentary film Salmon Confidential, a thought-provoking film that emerged from the research of Morton, an occasionally polarizing activist, during the Cohen Commission hearings of 2011-12.

“We’re hoping that will get some people talking,” Allen said.

Morton herself will host the next Corner, Feb. 27, with a talk on salmon and the environment and the links between them.

McCormick will follow Mar. 20 with a discussion exploring tourism as a viable economic driver on the North Island.

On April 24, McDonald takes the podium to explore non-traditional forest products and their potential economic benefits.

“We’re trying to promote alternative economies on the North Island,” said Craig Murray, a church board member who teamed with Allen to formulate the Speaker’s Corner concept.

Anderson will appear May 22 to talk about the work of Marble River Hatchery, a volunteer-run facility that has played a key role in salmon enhancement efforts in the Marble and other regional streams.

The series will break for the summer following a planned panel discussion in June, with the lineup of speakers and location to be announced.