North Island Rising: When your silence kills our towns

How does one convince senior governments and corporations that we have serious problems in rural BC?

We are threatened, ignored and abused, yet we continue to take each punch with no more a response than complaining to family and friends while wondering when the bullying will stop. I’m talking about our jobs and our way of life in rural BC and you would not be alone if you felt they were being threatened.

As I researched this week’s story (page 4) about Port Hardy’s successful off-loading facilities for the commercial fisheries, I discovered that even here, our successes are threatened by decisions and policies being made in Ottawa.

In this case, the federal government continues to ignore us and recommendations from their own Parliamentary Committee that endorse a community based commercial fisheries similar to what is found in Alaska.

In place of understanding and assistance, they continue to favour the long-standing practices that have encouraged consolidation, offshore processing and support for corporate takeover of what were once, owner/operator, family supporting style businesses.

It’s a standard scenario where bureaucrats and politicians, based thousands of miles from Port Hardy, see our world as depicted by lobbyists who also live in another world.

Neither sees us in the context of local jobs and investment, nor what creates and maintains healthy and vibrant rural communities.

In fact, they often see change only in terms of new ways to make money for those who wouldn’t know a rural lifestyle and local economy if it fell on them.

So, who’s to blame for the mess we again find ourselves in?

Unfortunately, the answer can be found in the mirror.

We are good at complaining and pointing out the obvious problems to…and here’s where it goes off the tracks…as we complain mostly to ourselves, family and maybe a few like-minded friends. After that we wonder why no one outside of that close circle knows or even cares.

As a journalist, I get to meet many of our local civic politicians in ways perhaps you don’t always see them. I get to peek behind the curtain where mayors, councillors and regional directors do their work. It is where the world of handshakes and ribbon cuttings are replaced by hard work that is sometimes as frustrating as it is difficult.

Ask yourself; how does one convince senior governments and corporations that we have serious problems in rural BC when your voice is mostly silent and missing on these issues?

Some might argue that we elect our local politicians to do that for us and you’d be partially correct. However, in an effort to keep rural BC alive and vibrant, there are times when your voice is needed to backup what they are saying and doing on your behalf. This isn’t about whether or not you voted for them, it is instead about keeping our communities alive.

Many of those I interview for stories such as this, comment in some way or other about the dangers created through your silence and apathy.

If you want your town to survive these assaults, which often result in less commercial fishing, less logging or a degraded sports fishery to name a few, silence will not reverse the process.

Complaining for the sake of complaining is absolutely useless. It means nothing unless you direct your concerns to someone who can make a difference. Challenge your MP’s or MLA’s, make them fix what is wrong and make them understand that if they don’t, the first job to be lost from now on will be theirs.

Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at

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