Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

On the Hunt for Community

There is every reason for optimism, you see. I believe in the resiliency of this community, in the strength of our industry and most of all in our greatest resource: our people. I cannot help but find myself troubled, though, as I browse through local social media sites and see the tales of those who have been laid off, lost jobs and who are now experiencing difficult times. I am seeing a great deal of anxiety and fear, and our mood is both fragile and taut like a violin string, easily plucked and made to sing our song of worry.

I suppose this is why I am thinking the way I am these days, about how it is more important than ever for this community to come together at every opportunity. I worry about the fragility of our community bond as families begin to consider selling their homes, moving away and seeking lives elsewhere as their lives here have either been altered or they fear it will happen. I suppose this is why I was saddened to hear that the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Dunvegan Gardens may not happen this year due to some behind-the-scenes wrangling over whether or not such activities should be permitted at that location.

I won't speculate on the reasons for the possible end of this annual event, but it is my understanding that there has been an ongoing dispute along Draper Road for some time. I've written about this dispute before in this blog, one occurring between residents of that area. Neighbourhood disputes are always messy and unpleasant, and they are rarely resolved tidily or to anyone's complete satisfaction. I suspect, although I do not know, that the appeal to disallow the annual Easter Egg Hunt may be tied to this years-old dispute and may simply another symptom of a long-simmering disagreement over the activities taking place in this area. To be honest I have sympathy and empathy for both sides on this dispute as I have expressed before, because as is often the case both sides have validity to their claims and points - but on this occasion I find that immaterial, because what suffers the most if the annual Easter Egg hunt is cancelled isn't either side but this community.

Traditions matter in a community. They are the ties upon which we build our cohesive bond, they are the events at which we find our neighbours, they are the moments we will remember forever. That the Easter Egg Hunt matters can be seen in the manner in which locals reacted upon learning of the potential cancellation of the event, perhaps in some cases an over-reaction as there is no need or benefit in creating villains or pointing fingers of blame at individuals, but the strength of the emotion was clear and powerful and showed the depth of feeling community members hold for this event.

No doubt when this post is published I will receive messages telling me that despite tough times in our community governance must continue as it should and we cannot just ignore due process. I will no doubt hear from those on both sides for not taking a strong enough stance or for taking a stance at all, as writing about this issue has in the past provoked hate-mail as it is a subject fraught with emotion. For me, though, the reality is that this is a terrible year to end a tradition that people have come to anticipate with excitement and I would be remiss if I failed to express my thoughts on why the possible cancellation of this event seems to have touched us so deeply this year.

During a time when we are already facing significant challenges and worries this event becomes a moment when we can forget those worries, even if for just a bit, and watch our children hunt for Easter Eggs. I would argue that this is a time when our community must come together, putting aside old differences if only for a day, to face an uncertain future together. This is a time when external forces - the price of oil, for instance - threaten to tear us apart, and so it becomes even more crucial for us to put aside any differences, real or perceived, and instead form a united front.

There are those who will think this is an overblown argument in favour of a small thing like an Easter Egg hunt. But it isn't the big things - elections and such - that truly tie people to their community. It is the small things like Easter Egg hunts that we remember and that we hold onto when times turn tough. This is a time when one would hope we can put our own issues aside in favour of simply enjoying a simple tradition that exists for our children and which contributes to the development of our community bond.

On Wednesday at 6 pm the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board will hold an Appeal Hearing on this matter at Council Chambers in the Jubilee Building. Anyone wishing to speak or present evidence must submit it in advance (by Monday March 30). I would suggest anyone interested in learning more about the appeal attend this hearing, but if you are unable to attend the hearing and wish to express your thoughts you can email the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.

If you wish to see this event go ahead then instead of laying blame or expressing anger I encourage you to simply share with the Appeal Board what this annual event means to you and why you think it needs to continue in our community. There is no need for anger and for argument, no need to further inflame the situation when our emotions are already so heightened - the best tactic now is to simply share why this matters to us, our children and our community. This is a time when we must be on the hunt for ways to strengthen our community - and for me this is an opportunity to do so, and a chance to work together to achieve a positive resolution for all.

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