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BLANCH: Amherst is an inclusive community


In Amherst today we pride ourselves on our inclusivity. We celebrate and welcome all people, seeing the diversity of our community as both strength and beauty.  

This year we hosted our first Pride Parade, which was very well attended. The success of National Aboriginal Day events, especially the pow wow, has been a fantastic opportunity for cultural sharing. Recently Amherst has had great success sponsoring a number of Syrian families to settle in our community. All of these examples have enriched our lives.
I am a proud Amherstonian. I am proud of our inclusivity and I understand that we are not represented by, or reflected in, the actions of Lord Jeffery Amherst our town’s namesake. It was suggested in the media that Amherst should change its name due to his historical actions and many atrocities committed against the First Nations people.
Council is not considering this change. Still, I believe that reconciliation with First Nation communities is integral to being an inclusive community. We must be open to dialogue with First Nation peoples, open about the history of Lord Amherst and how his continued presence (in named places) impacts the lives of First Nation’s people today. As we build a relationship of understanding we will learn ways to show respect, and to demonstrate just how far we have come as individuals and as a community.
Today we abhor actions that were acceptable 250 years ago. What new ethics will exist in 2267? Will our descendants believe in the rights of nature? Will they be shocked at the way we have eliminated entire species and disrupted our planet’s biodiversity? How critically will they judge our complicity and complacency in causing climate change and ocean acidification? How will the impacts of our careless environmental actions reverberate through the centuries? Will we one day acknowledge the rights of all living things?
There is a parallel in the way we disregard the rights of other lifeforms today and the way Jeffery Amherst disregarded the rights of First Nations people. Lord Jefferey felt that he had a right to exist but First Nation people did not. Today we feel we have a right to exist but a forest, and the birds and animals and insects within it, do not. Our environmental crisis is really an ethical crisis. When we accept the rights of nature, we stop transforming our environment in ways that eliminate species and threaten our own existence. I believe that an environmental ethic is the ethic that we will be judged against by future generations.
There is much we can do at the municipal level to address the environmental crisis we face. We can pursue green technology like solar energy and smart grid technology. We can strive to make our community walkable and bike friendly by developing active transportation infrastructure. Council is currently working on, or considering initiatives, in all of these areas.
Our town’s name is not the question. The question is, can we rise above the blindness and bias of today and make a lasting and meaningful impact on Amherst and the world of tomorrow? I know we can. We must! We do it as a community of informed and engaged citizens. Talk to your councillors and describe the legacy you wish to leave. Talk to the councillors you suspect would disagree with you, these are the people you have to impact. Organize with friends, educate yourself, your neighbors and most importantly, educate your councillors! This is how you really vote, not every four years, but every day, every conversation. Our history is important, but our future is paramount!
Jason is a newly elected councillor. He has been an environmental activist and educator for the past 20 years working across Canada and internationally. He also ran as a Green Party of Canada candidate in the 2011 and 2015 general elections. Jason has worked professionally as an addiction counsellor with the Nova Scotia Health Authority for the past 15 years and spent three years counselling men with New Directions, an intervention program for abusive men. Jason lives in Amherst Nova Scotia with his wife Julie and their two children.

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