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Leadership Insights by Shannon Waters


“Decisive, political steps” are needed over the next 15 months to achieve a 45% reduction in our carbon emissions by 2030.

The protection, promotion, and representation in our government of Indigenous worldviews is crucial to reach our carbon emission targets.

15 months. This may feel overwhelming and distant from our influence yet a significant and accessible way for influence is to VOTE in Canada’s federal election taking place October 21st.

Elections are a cornerstone of democracy.

Canada’s democratic process links back to Ancient Greece, the birthplace of western culture over 2500 years ago. Our democratic approach, along with the social norms, ethical values and belief systems of western culture arrived in North America after its discovery in the 15th century. Derived from the Greek term dēmokratiā, dēmos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”), democracy is quite literally, rule by the people.

The Interconnected Web of Our Relationships

Strong, resilient relationships are foundational for me as a physician supporting the health of the population. In fact, our world depends on them. The western worldview puts humans and their interpersonal relationships at the top of a hierarchy of relationships.

Indigenous worldviews place humans in an interconnected web of relationships with all living beings, including water and the land.

Many Indigenous groups consider all living beings as people. For example, relationships with the salmon people are integral on British Columbia’s coast.  

Resources are not commodities but rather peoples with whom we cultivate relationships of reciprocity. These reciprocal relationships allow sustainability for generations upon generations.

The targeting of these reciprocal relationships has contributed to the age of climate disruption.

The protection, promotion, and representation in our government of Indigenous worldviews is crucial to reach our carbon emission targets.

The urgency of the restitution of these reciprocal relationships struck me with recent discourse in Cowichan touching on kwewe’uts, our local Roosevelt Elk population.

There was a time when Hul’qumi’num people were completely nourished by the water, plants and animals within our home territory. In return for that nourishment, we cared for the water, plants, and animals.

Our current situation is very different:

  • For example, elk, a large and herd-living mammal, are facing a damaged, diminished and fragmented habitat.
  • The once numerous elk in Hul’qumi’num territory have been challenged to find a new habitat or face extirpation.
  • Losing the elk would be a profound loss, depleting our web of biodiversity and further degrading our ability to be nourished by our territory.
  • The analogy of connection between humans and the elk and humans and the planet is paramount in this time of climate disruption and biodiversity collapse.

Protecting them is protecting us. Nutsumaat, “We are one”.

ELK - use this one!

Voting is a power that we, as humans, have in this country at this time.

We can honor our human responsibilities while exercising this power, by considering rule by the people from an inclusive, Indigenous worldview.

Vote to uphold your relationship with those peoples who can’t vote - the water, the salmon, the elk, the children in your life and the generations yet to come.

Vote to make a difference.

VOTE for the health of all living beings in this monumental time.

Shannon Waters is a Public Health + Preventive Medicine Physician, Connector and Hope Builder. In her current leadership role as Medical Health Officer for the Cowichan Valley Region at Island Health Shannon works to bring a voice to not only the health of her community but to Mother Earth.

Learn more about our AMPLIFY program for senior leaders here.

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