The Power of Vision

by Jean Langlois

The setting was a small rural community. In this case in west Quebec, but I know that this story has played out in many such places in CPAWS’s 50 years. A group of concerned citizens were staring down a development that would spoil their beloved forest. The only avenue was to try to convince an unstoppable political agenda to soften its edges, to reduce the impacts from total devastation to moderate destruction. When they invited the CPAWS guy to one of their meetings, I was privileged to meet some of the finest people you can imagine.

I spent the first meeting listening. I was struck with a sense of mitigated defeat, of grim duty to a hopeless battle. By the next meeting something absolutely magical happened. We asked ourselves: if it were up to us what would happen to this place? The answer led to a joyous and hopeful campaign to protect a provincially rare ancient forest. This was no easy task. In fact it was really hard. These battles always are. But at every step, forward and back, I was in awe of the power of engaged people who share a clear vision. After a few years of tough slogging the government came to town to discuss their options: protect 1/3 of the area, or if the case could be made, protect 2/3. We had come a long way. Now it was decision time. The community settled on its answer to the government. And it took my breath away: Protect it all. 100%. That is our vision.

What followed was more tough slogging. The fear that all might be lost by this gamble was overwhelmed by the power of vision. The vision eventually came to pass and the community now boasts one of the largest ecological reserves in the province. When I look back at my CPAWS days I remember many beautiful places, fierce people, and bold visions.

Happy birthday CPAWS, you’re looking fabulous, keep changing the game!