Lest we forget?
These words may seem an ill-considered phrase to mark the destruction of a piece of Cowichan Valley heritage. Our emotions sometimes make self-expression unclear. Perhaps the author of that note was trying to remind passers-by of what those who fell in battle were defending: personal freedom under the wise and compassionate guidance of an open democratic system of government. Most of us believe that freedom to include a right to respect for cultural heritage.
The belligerent, heavy-handed attitude displayed by the clique of civic leaders who cut down the big tree in front of the library indicated a complete lack of any such respect.
How can a group of low-level politicians decide to obliterate one of the last vestiges of the area’s pioneering community with no better explanation than “the tree was old”?
More than one prominent arborist had assessed the tree as no greater threat to public safety than a Sunday drive. Was it interfering with the new parking lot? Information is available indicating the tree’s removal was being discussed by the commission long before plans for a new parking lot. How did one single arborist’s report — whose author and content were kept secret from the public — become the commission’s favoured assessment? Had they already made up their minds about the tree’s fate long ago and chose simply to go through the motions of public consultation? Until there is more public awareness of what minds and political machinery lie behind controversial decisions, there will be no sense of accountability in those responsible.
There is a grove of trees along Shelbourne Avenue in Victoria dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives in defence of freedom. There is one right here in Centennial Park. Those trees are meant to respect our war dead. Why can we not respect the ancient trees in return?