Ajax is dead; let the healing begin

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 15, 2017 - 6:09am

KAMLOOPS — Thursday’s announcement that the Ajax project is dead might be the best news for the Kamloops region since the coming of the railroad.

But what to do now? After six long years of splitting the community in two, Ajax — which once seemed like a sure thing — is finished.

It’s like a huge weight being lifted off collective shoulders, yet there’s no question that a lot of people wanted to see it go ahead. The torn fabric of the community has to be mended.

We can begin with the way in which we talk about it. How about if those of us who fought against the mine refrain from gloating too much? Take a few days to smile and be happy, but be ready to get on with life.

And don’t spend too much time trying to figure out who deserves the most credit. Was it he Kamloops Area Preservation Association? Was it the Code Blue alliance? The Physicians for a Healthy Environment? The Aberdeen Neighbourhood Association? Kamloops City council? The Stk'emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN)?

It was all of those voices, and many more, so let’s just enjoy the moment.

There was a strong conviction in some quarters that the SSN’s unequivocal opposition would win the day for opponents, because indigenous voices have a lot of influence in the politics of the province and the nation right now.

But the SSN wouldn’t have prevailed by itself, and neither would any other single group. The joint statement by B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman and Mines Minister Michelle Mungall was clear that it was the substance, not the politics, of the opposition that directed their decision.

And to those who believed in the mine, consider cooling it on indignant condemnation and finger pointing. Don’t waste energy looking for who to blame. The sky has not fallen.

Somehow, the community needs to find a structure and strategy for reconciliation. Components of that reconciliation might include establishing a tangible on-site acknowledgement of the importance of Jacko Lake (Pipsell) to First Nations culture, action on reformation of the Mines Act, a provincially supported declaration of a no-mining zone around Kamloops, a legislated mechanism for doing the same for other major population centres, and a new plan for job creation.

It’s a time for healing, not for second guessing.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.