Sadly, 2019 will not go down as the greatest year in the history of the Cowichan Valley.
It was one of conflict, divided communities and extreme violence.
The three homicides recorded were certainly an anomaly in what is generally a peaceful place to live, but the spike in crimes of that nature serve to remind us that we’re no longer living in Mayberry, Barney.
Big city social problems and crime have arrived and the evidence is everywhere.
It’s futile to expect government at any level to effectively deal with these problems. Indeed, many of the symptoms that we see are a direct result of government policies and decisions that were made years ago and are continuing to cause hardship amongst society’s most vulnerable people.
That leaves it up to citizens at the grassroots level to step up and deal with the societal problems personally and directly. In Duncan, we see it every day as a small group of conscientious folks, originally inspired by business owner Will Arnold, have taken it upon themselves to clean up a troubled area around the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s risky work, frustratingly repetitious simply because the problem doesn’t go away and the volunteers return day after day to deal with the same issues, picking up discarded syringes, human waste and all manner of garbage.
Mostly, local government is absent, although there were some encouraging signs late in the year that North Cowichan was interested in dealing with a worsening social condition that threatened to turn beleaguered Lewis Street into something resembling the notorious Downtown Eastside in Vancouver.
Too much of the year and too much negative energy was devoted to the controversial Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit issue. The problem of noise that drew the ire of Sahtlam neighbours became almost a sidebar in the debate over whether the Circuit would be allowed to expand its operations.
In the great Canadian tradition of compromise, there existed a path to a reasonable agreement that would have gone a long way to mitigating the very real sound issues, satisfying First Nations concerns, protecting the precious environment while permitting a business to continue to operate legally and even expand if it chose to do so.
Unfortunately, leadership was lacking and as the rhetoric heated up, rational positions were nowhere to be found.
Let’s hope we can do better in 2020 on several fronts.
Warren Goulding is the publisher of the Cowichan Valley Citizen