In a community as small as Fort St. James, there is rarely an opportunity to miss the little things.
Since it seems that everyone knows one another in some way, shape or form, small details generally rarely go unnoticed, especially when the members of the community are generally so active, attentive and engaged with the progress of their town.
But, occasionally, small towns across Canada have the unfortunate reputation of occasionally being known as places where the, for lack of a better term, bigger picture can be ignored or swept under the rug.
From time to time, the residents of such a small community truly only focus on their community, something which is completely justifiable. Yet, other times, this perceived lack of awareness to a society’s happenings can truly permeate the foundations of a small town.
That is certainly not the case in Fort St. James.
At the July 18 regular meeting of Mayor and Council, an update on an incredible initiative, the Fort St. James Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH), was provided by Economic Development Officer Kelley Williams.
Williams stated that the project, which was developed for Fort St. James more than five years ago, had never formally been addressed at a council meeting. In turn, an update to one of the most important initiatives in the community was explained.
OARH, a project that was made possible through funding from both the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia, primarily focuses on cerebrating the diversity of the community, while also imploring residents to live in harmony with one another.
Nearly a decade ago, in 2010 EmbraceBC of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training awarded the College of New Caledonia Fort St. James campus funding for the aforementioned Organizing Against Racism and Hate project.
OARH was initially created as a three phase project designed and dedicated to help smaller communities, like Fort St. James, better address incidents of racism and hate in the community.
Furthermore, in May of 2012, a group of Fort St. James youth, supported by the College of New Caledonia and other community groups staged STAAR (Students Taking Action Against Racism) Day.
In total, more than 450 youth came to participate, with messages of fair and respectful treatment, community safety and anti-harassment being spotlighted. These messages of community responsibility have continued to shape Fort St. James ongoing effort in fighting racism and hate.
An anti-racism and hate response handbook, which was a direct result of the OARH project, was available for public viewing at the council meeting.
The comprehensive handbook — a fascinating look at how the community of Fort St. James has been addressing hate and racism over the past five years — also offers some interesting information regarding just how diverse the community is.
The handbook states that when celebrating Fort St. James 200 years in 2006, it was determined that family origins reflected 42 different nationalities and unique ethnicities.
Ultimately, the Anti-Racism and Hate Response Handbook is something that the community of Fort St. James should be incredibly proud of. It is not often you see a community so committed and attentive at a small town level when it comes to a major socio-political issue.
In addition, the District of Fort St. James Mayor and Council spoke about a new development that would continue to affirm their anti-hate message and reinforce that Fort St. James is a community where everyone should feel like they belong.
At the same July 18 regular council meeting, Council came to an agreement to partner with the Ministry of Transportation and infrastructure to paint to rainbow cross walks in Fort St. James, something that members of the community have been very receptive to.
In a Facebook post made on June 28 in recognition of LGBT Pride Month, the District of Fort St. James issued the following statement.
“The District of Fort St. James is proud to recognize the wide diversity of the people in our community. No matter your sexual identity, the DFSJ believes in a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.”
Locals were quick to comment on the post, even mentioning that a rainbow crosswalk to Spirit Square would be a welcome addition to an already welcoming community.
Nonetheless, it is incredibly refreshing to see a small community like Fort St. James make their voices heard when it comes to a major issue our society faces. Through a small town lens, Fort St. James has been able to make a positive impact on the lives of its residents, no matter their backgrounds. For that, the community should be commended.
Because sometimes, the smallest of places can make the biggest differences in the grand scheme of things.