Originally published on Cortes Currents

Most Cortes residents probably know Cortes Island’s new Alternate Director through the Community Forest, or the Food-Co-op Cafe. Given all the political shenanigans of recent months, some probably wonder why anyone would want to represent this island. So who is this mysterious young woman? I recently had an opportunity to interview Corry Dow at her home on Gunflint Lake

Cortes Politics As A Soap Opera

In the podcast above, she compares our current political situation to a the soap opera like “Days of Our Lives.” 

“We’ve got quite an entertaining and controversial situation going on here. That’s really my take on it. Beginning with the [Legal] petition after Noba’s election last year … it is quite a dramatic scene and I find that inevitable in a small place where people have strongly different views. I thought the petition was shocking, strange and far fetched. As we went along, I was a bit bemused by how the Regional District responded to that particular incident, and curious as to how these things came down and also cautious about not exactly understanding the whys and the wherefores from a local government perspective about how certain decisions would be reached or how they were reached. I continue to be ignorant, in some ways, about how these decisions are reached and I think a lot of us on Cortes are concerned and we don’t have the answers just now - so I continue to stay tuned to the local political situation: it’s a show I keep watching …”

SRD Board Meetings

After attending two Strathcona Regional District Board meetings (Oct 24 & Nov 6), Corry says: : 

“It seemed really nice to have a lot of my questions answered as to what is it really like at an SRD Board meeting. I am sure that a number of people on Cortes who have attended and seen the meetings have a pretty good understanding of that – but I, myself, didn’t before these two meetings.” 

“ … It was a new scene. The board situation, or meeting with the public or decision making bodies that I have done on Cortes all work by consensus and we work in a fairly informal way. When you go to the Regional District, they work in quite a formal way. It takes awhile to work one’s head around that new format.“

” … As a person who is not incredibly versed in Robert’s Rules, I would have to say that the rules of engagement were daunting but, after sitting in the morning’s meeting and then the smaller [EASC] committee meeting in the afternoon, it seems really nice to have a lot of my questions answered as to what is it really like at an SRD meeting. (I’m sure a lot of people from Cortes, who have attended and seen the meetings, have a pretty good understanding of that – but I myself didn’t before these two meetings.”

The Ferry Advisory Commission

As Regional Director Anderson’s alternate, Corry also sits on the BC Ferry Advisory Commission.

“Noba had the situation set up where she stepped down from the FAC and was sending her alternate in her place. Mary Lavelle had been doing it for a few meetings and then, when we switched over, I went to this one …”

“I came to the meeting after there had been quite a contentious meeting, from what I understood, and I think it is a strange thing that a commission only meets two times a year and perhaps the committee members do not speak to one another in between. So I basically went with the idea of wondering where people were coming from and having a few questions about why things were the way they were and also curious about how BC Ferries comes and engages with us as a community.…”  

Who Was Corry Before She Came To Cortes? 

Prior to becoming immersed in Cortes politics, Corry grew up just outside of Edmonton and obtained a degree in environmental science from the University of Alberta. She lived in Vancouver for five years, and was a volunteer coordinator at the Vancouver Aquarium.  

“Then I was quite tired of the city and I decided to go woofing for a year and a half. I worked around small farms all around the UK: from Scotland down to the south and Cornwall … When I returned from that, I had a friend who I lived with in Vancouver and she told me about the Linnaea Garden Program, the ecological garden program that they had in Linnaea. She happened to come from Vancouver and be living in Edmonton, which was amazing, and we had a stitch and bitch group.”

“We were sitting around stitching and she said to me, ‘Well are you going to do that program I told you about?”

And I said, ‘I had forgotten’ and I looked and there were two weeks left until the application was due and I submitted it and knew I would go.” 

Linnaea Farm

She was drawn to Cortes by the idea of people learning to feed themselves and stayed because Gunflint lake felt like home. 

“I don’t know if I had a community life in the city. I had a personal life, I had a work life – but I do not know that I really had a community life and I think I am the kind of person who has always been looking for a community life and I found it here.” 

“… Linnaea Farm is a community where the stewards get together to decide how to use the land. So it is kind of like a small country with just five households. You are asking all the questions, like what shall we do? How shall we do it? Who shall do it? And when shall they do it? Working in that way made me really appreciate that everyone has a different point of view and different values. All you can do is reconcile them. It is always going to be a compromise.”   

Cortes  Food-Co-op Cafe

Corry started working at the Food Co-op Cafe in 2014. She did prep work, made coffee, served customers and did whatever else needed doing. 

“I have this wonderful migratory kind of situation where I work there each winter and I’m currently the supervisor of the front of house in the cafe – and in the summertime I work as a private gardener. So I work there each year from October through the end of March and them I work outside for the summertime.”

Cortes Community Forest

Also in 2014, she was hired by the community forest. Corry put on a number of public forums and focus groups to assess what the public wanted with the community forest. 

“I met such a wider spectrum of the community … up until that point I had spent the last five years living on Linnaea farm, working with garden students, doing a lot of gardening and meeting a few clients on the south end of Cortes Island  … From the community forest I met people from all over the island, even Whaletown.”

Corry went on to sit on the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative’s board for two years before deciding she would “rather just be a volunteer rather than go to all the meetings.” Her most recent volunteer activity was firewood day at the end of October.

Catching The Regional Director’s Eye

“I’ve been acquainted with Noba since I moved to Cortes. We knew of each other and had friends in common. She called me up and said ‘I’ve seen the work you’ve been doing with the community forest, mainly with public meetings and what not. She asked me if I would like to be on the APC [Advisory Planning Commission] a few years ago. So I agreed to do that and was able to attend all of two meetings and was never able to attend again because all the meetings were scheduled when I was working.”

“ .. That was my initial recruitment into the sphere of Noba and then, in this past year, she sat down with me and one other person and said, ‘I’m looking for other people who are willing to be my alternate and maybe you might be interested? You might have some skills in that direction?”

“ … I’m kind of a sucker for being needed, to be very honest … So when she said: I think you could be good at this  … I thought, I really respect Noba and the work she does and, yah, I’d be willing to sit down with her. I was curious to see what she sees and to understand what she is doing in this role that she has carried out for quite a few years now. I was curious, and I flattered that she thought I might be helpful to her.”