It took a lot for me to work up the courage to sit down and write this letter. I am currently writing this from my office at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, a position I took in July 2020 to help contribute as much as I could to the current public health crisis that troubles our world. COVID-19 has disrupted our society in ways not seen since World War Two, and it is up to us to mobilize and tackle this issue head on, like our brave veterans did in the wake of fascism in Europe.
This past year has been a tough one for our community of Fort St John. I returned to Fort St John after having been away for a number of years to obtain my degree in Political Science. The pandemic highlighted many of the social inequities that ravage our community. As some of you may be aware, my experiences with racism in Fort St John led to a number of protests last summer, and a Solidarity March to Centennial Park. My work as an activist culminated into results as this past November, I was invited to speak at the 10 Year Anniversary Conference for TEDxSFU.
Racism in our community is not new. Minorities have consistently been the target of racial intolerance in town, and these stories are often overlooked by the general public.
I recently took a meeting with Mayor Ackerman. In this meeting I asked about what the city could be doing to help tackle these important issues and the response I got was, muted, to say the least. Effectively, the city has delegated this issue to the Multicultural Society.
I don’t blame Mayor Ackerman or the sitting City Council for this inaction and I am grateful to have been given the chance to discuss these issues with her. It is impossible for those who have never experienced systemic racism in real time to truly understand what effect racism can have on a community. How could they?
That is why I believe it is time to shake up the leadership in City Council. The abdication by Councilwoman Grimsrud of her seat and the calling of the by-election presents an opportunity for the people of Fort St John to achieve Diversity in Leadership. Diversity in Race. Diversity in Intellectual Thought. Diversity in Power.
Racism is not the only social issue that ails our home.
The tragic death of a young woman in our community at the hands of her domestic partner has left the city in shock. Ms. Black’s death is heartbreaking, and I wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones during this difficult time. Rest in Power.
Her death hit me hard. Growing up in Rose Prairie on a horse ranch, domestic violence was something that was common in our household. So much so, that when I was 13 years old, I left home to live in town. Drifting from couch to couch. Tree to tree. I remember when a great tree was removed from Matthews Park and how distraught I was; That tree had served as my bedroom more nights then I care to say in Grade 10. I have struggled with my own PTSD that I developed in my childhood due to the violence in my childhood home, and it pains me to see this needless loss of life.
Fort St John has few resources at its disposal for victims of domestic violence and this must change. As a young city, one that predominantly leans towards a male majority, women are more often the victims of domestic violence and we must do everything we can to support our Mothers, Sisters, Daughters and Children from abuse.
I have listed some important resources for any current or past survivors of domestic violence. You are not alone. There are some options that you can use, and that I wish I had known about during my struggles with domestic violence.
Fort St John Women’s Resource Society: 250-787-1121
24 Hour Crisis Line: 1-888-562-1214 Toll Free / 1-888-564-8336 Youth Support
Meaope Transition House: 250-785-5208
If you are in a high risk and volatile situation, please call the Transition House if you need to get out and provide safety for yourself and family. You can access counsellor services and other resources to help keep you and your family safe.
To end this letter, I wish to provide a feeling of hope. Hope is on the horizon. I truly believe that our community can rise from the turmoil of these important issues and stand up against racism, and domestic violence. This upcoming election will allow the people of our community to vote for someone who can provide the diversity we need to tackle these issues; someone with experience fighting for the issues that truly matter, and to help to keep our community safe from prejudice and violence.
Voter apathy is astounding in our community, the last byelection had only 7% voter turnout. I believe it is time for someone to step and energize the community. Our community is not inherently racist or violent. The vast majority of people in town believe that these are important issues and while they may be tough and difficult conversations requiring plenty of self-reflection, I believe we as a community are up to that challenge. That is why I am beginning the exploratory conversations of a potential run at this vacant Council seat.
Hope is on the horizon for Fort St John, and my hope is that come voter day on May 15, the right candidate is elected to help begin the work of outreach, conversation, and healing for my beloved hometown.
— Trystan Jones (MacLeod), Fort St. John
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