What makes Fernie special to you?
Fernie is maturing into one of those rare places: a small charming town where open-minded, caring, diverse people who revel in art, music and literature can also enjoy the opportunity for outdoor and community sport. A town which values and is striving to preserve its architectural, cultural, ethnic and historic heritage. To have such a community set in the sublime landscape of the Rocky Mountains in which a rich variety of wildlife still thrives (for now – let us hope forever) and where four almost perfect seasons provide an ever changing panoply of colour to live in is a great blessing. Fernie is not a place without problems but our problems are manageable, with realistic hope for solutions and improvements, and this too is rare. I once saw a book entitled: “Heaven is a Place in the Rockies”. I think the writer meant Fernie.
What makes you proud to be a Canadian?
I have had a complicated relationship with Canada. At my birth, I was defined by Canada as someone who was going to be a criminal. I was just old enough to start knowing that I was going to grow up to be a criminal when finally the state got out of the bedrooms of the nation. In 1969, homosexuality was decriminalized by the Parliament of Canada. I remember somehow instinctively realizing the change in the law was going to help change my future. But changing that law didn’t suddenly change life in Canada and I very quickly learned that people still discriminated against me by denying me and people like me jobs, homes, and the ability to live openly and freely. I questioned my place in Canada throughout all of my teen years until my mid-thirties. I even lived abroad for much of the 1980’s wondering if I would be able to have a better, freer life in Europe than in Canada. On a courageous whim, I returned to Fernie in 1989 hoping I could make a life in Canada, thinking maybe I could work for change in Canada. It was not until 1995 when the Supreme Court of Canada read LGBT protection into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that I began to believe that I had a real future in Canada. I did not, however, feel like I was a true citizen of Canada until 2005 when same-sex marriage was legalized and I was given the same standing as other Canadians. I can still clearly remember the feeling that I had that day when the Parliament of Canada passed the legislation. Suddenly we all had true equality. I actually said to the people I was with that day, “Today, for the first time in my life, I feel like I am a citizen of Canada!”
What is your Fernie story?
My Fernie story is simple. I am a child of the Rocky Mountains. I am here because of the stories that have been written here and are yet to be written here. There is no better place for me to write them.