This is a story of abuse that has been occurring in my neighbourhood.
A few years ago, I moved into a very pleasant neighbourhood. Next to a nice family with a sweet young daughter. I used to see “Annie” (a fictitious name) playing happily outdoors in her well-loved yard. We became good friends. Things suddenly changed about three years ago when her parents were tragically killed. Annie became an orphan and, I believe, abused by her new caregivers. Perhaps close relatives, I thought, as they arrived in elegant cars.
Wanting to greet them, I knocked on the door, but each time they either did not answer or, if somebody did, a large person, arms crossed, blocked the door and gave me a very cold reception. In the background, I could hear a child crying. Annie’s appearance changed. She was no longer a carefree girl. Her made-up face was hardened. Her voice rough. She often left or arrived in speeding vehicles. Often staggering, dizzy and falling. I noticed bruises and a cast on her arm.
One time I managed to express my concern to the caregivers but was abruptly told that Annie was now a teenager and teenagers loved excitement, and I should keep out of their business. The neighbourhood changed. Loud parties often kept us awake. The yard was messy, often littered with tell-tale signs. Various men frequented their house. When I noticed these visitors open their wallets to Annie and her caregivers, I wondered if there was some kind of shady business going on inside. Periodically police arrived to check on disturbances.
Some of the other neighbors got together to express their concerns about abuse or crime. Most were either too unsure or reluctant to approach the caregivers directly. Those who did appeal to authorities were brushed aside or stalled. A few of the neighbours simply joined the caregivers in their merry parties, and shut their eyes and ears. I often asked myself if I should just “mind my own business.” Should I be caring about what happened to Annie or the nice neighbourhood? Could I be doing more to help Annie?
By now you may have figured out that this story is fictitious, but representative of what has been happening in our town and other areas. It is the story of “change” in the name of “progress,” not for better but for worse in the opinion of many thousands of residents and visitors. A story of threatened abuse and loss of precious land and privileges that are too valuable to lose.
The “neighbourhood” is Penticton. You and I are the “neighbours.” Young “Annie” is symbolic of the beautiful, protected and cherished natural beauty of our surrounding lakes, mountains, and wildlife that are “at risk.” The “deceased parents” are the people who once lovingly cherished and protected the open, free, public park spaces. The “caregivers” are the current City Council, defiant, with complete disregard for thousands who object to their actions.
The people who are opening their wallets are those with selfish motives and gain. The authorities are those who are who are supposed to uphold our laws and protect us and our lands. I hope I am living in a community of people who will continue to stand up for what they believe in and love. Where people will protect “Annie” from abuse and loss.