Saturday night I went to the premiere of Paul Manly's film, "Voices of the River". Paul is a Nanaimo film-maker who has dedicated himself to making documentaries about social justice issues.
Now if that sounds deadly dull to you, I have to assure you, it wasn't. Saturday's event featured music from local musicians, good food, great door prizes, and a dance that went on into the wee small hours of the morning - my neighbours, Chad and Susana, were pretty tired the next day!
The film had a special resonance for those of us at Pacific Gardens, as the Nanaimo River is a favourite recreation spot for our families. You may have seen the video on our Facebook site of eight-year-old Soma bravely jumping off a high rock ledge into the clear and cool river water.
Pauls' message in the film was simple, and powerful: The Nanaimo River is us. We all drink it, swim in it, bathe in it, water our gardens and lawns with it, and use it in our industries, businesses and public institutions. It is vital to sustaining our complex ecosystem and the wildlife that lives in it. Without it, our economy would wither away.
You would think that such a precious resource would be publicly-owned. It is not. We learned that Vancouver Island is the mirror image of the rest of the province in how land is owned. In the rest of BC, 90 per cent of the land is crown land, and 10 per cent is private.
On Vancouver Island, 10 per cent of the land is publicly-owned, and 90 per cent is private, thanks to a land grant given to coal baron James Dunsmuir. Our precious watershed is owned by a private logging company, Island Timberlands.
Every time we go swimming, fishing, hiking, kayaking, or white-water rafting in the Nanaimo River, we are trespassing on private land. And that's a worry, with development being considered for some of the river's most beautiful locations.
In the Cowichan and Greater Victoria Regional Districts, the watershed is publicly-owned. It should be here, too.