Twenty-five community members gathered in front of MLA Katrine Conroy’s constituency office in Castlegar for a candlelight vigil on Dec. 13. The vigil was held to commemorate those who died or lost their homes in climate-related disasters this year, including the heat dome, wildfires, floods, and mudslides. They also called for more action to confront the climate emergency and help prevent future deaths.
The event was held at the same time as dozens of similar vigils were held outside MLA offices across British Columbia, including Nelson. The Castlegar and Nelson vigils were organized by community members and the West Kootenay Climate Hub.
The event included poems, prayer, song, and heartfelt words. Participants also had a chance to share personal stories they experienced during this year’s climate disruptions.
One of the Castlegar speakers was Avianna Clempson, a Selkirk College forestry student and their sustainability ambassador, who grew up in Chilliwack.
“It has been a heartbreaking past few weeks,” she shared, “listening to loved ones’ stories, seeing pictures and watching videos of places that I know so well, submerged beneath the mighty Fraser River. My heart is with all the families who have been impacted by climate disasters this year.”
Nurse practitioner Tammy McLean emphasized her experience helping those living on the streets during the heat dome and wildfire smoke this summer. She ended by stressing the importance of “witnessing the injustice of this world — because climate change and climate inaction is injustice — and not allowing it to consume our light. We need to hold fast and keep our light shining brightly for change.”
Reverend Robin Murray, with Castlegar United Church, led participants in prayer, a moment of silence, and an uplifting song.
“The foundation of my faith is love,” she explained. “So I’m really glad we can gather here in the spirit of love. In this polarized society where the first reaction is so often adversarial conflict, it is good to lift up our voices in love for this planet and grief for the damage happening to it.”
The event closed with 10 climate emergency actions being read by Clempson and fellow Selkirk College students. These actions, in an open letter to the BC government by 345 organizations from a broad cross section of society, call on the government to provide leadership in the face of the climate emergency.
“I have hope in the future, and these ten actions that we are asking for today are building blocks to a step in the right direction,” said Clempson. “We need to be asking questions and holding one another accountable, so that these ideas become action. By being here, you are taking a step in the right direction.”