A group of South Cariboo residents gathered to share stories and ideas for the future of the community and beyond during an inaugural “freedom fair” Sunday.
The day-long event, held at the South Cariboo Theatre, featured a panel of speakers from various backgrounds sharing experiences that highlighted frustrations and mistrust of government and other institutions.
The event coincided with the launch of the South Cariboo Foundation, described by co-founder Cameron McSorley as a “generational project” focusing on several development sectors with the goal of offering support at a local, non-political level.
“We are going to seam up every crack we can find in society and we are going to bridge every gap that we find and that is brought to us,” McSorley said.
Among the speakers at the April 3 event was Marion Tillotson, a longtime South Cariboo resident who shared stories of her history fighting back against “unCanadian” legislation in Ottawa, such as firearm restrictions.
Cody Gene, a local musician and producer, discussed the importance of “individual autonomy” and not needing to rely on government services in what he described as a broken system.
“It’s not about a protest to me, it’s about trying to make something that’s better than what we’ve got in a way that’s not going to be corrupted by corrupt people,” Gene said.
Dr. Theresa Szezepaniak, a physician who is set to move to the South Cariboo this spring, shared a brief outlook on the health care system in B.C. and the “monumental” changes that need to take place in order to get it in decent working order.
Szezepaniak, who most recently worked as a hospital specialist at Royal Inland Hospital, told the crowd of around two dozen attendees that during an 18-month stint in Kamloops – from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to when she was “terminated” in October 2021 – she only treated six COVID patients.
“By contrast, I did see adverse events, I saw so many fellow citizens suffering life-changing and devastating complications of the injections that they had received, having been told they were both safe and effective,” Szezepaniak said.
Former MLA and 100 Mile House mayor Donna Barnett discussed her long career as a politician in the South Cariboo, noting the stark contrast between the healthy volunteer community decades ago to the state of the community now.
“We have lost the community volunteers, we have lost the community spirit,” she said. “The only way that we’re going to get back to building it is to take it into our own hands and to participate.”
McSorley said following Sunday’s gathering that the foundation members hope to host similar events a few times a year, in addition to launching the 100 Mile Community Garden once again this spring.