Jocelyn Doll/Campbell River Mirror file photo Ollie and Edwina Henderson, the king and queen of the upcoming Elders Gathering in July, inspected the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corp 54 Admiral DeWolf recently.

City supports Elders Gathering, expected to bring thousands to Campbell River

Campbell River will host the BC Elders Gathering in July

The city is pitching in some financial support to help a First Nations elders society host a major event in Campbell River this July.

Council, at last week’s meeting, agreed to provide the BC Elders Communication Center Society with a $15,000 cash grant to help host and promote the 41st Annual BC Elders Gathering – an event held with the purpose of fostering relationships and community links between elders from across the province.

The money is intended to help the society with four in-kind requests it put forward to the city: 3,000 maps of the area, a one-quarter page message and city crest in the event’s agenda/program, staff as city paid volunteers during the event, and banners purchased and installed that welcome the BC Elders to our community.

Ron Bowles, the city’s general manager of corporate services, said the cash grant is a way for the city to help honour the requests.

“As specific items in the request are not items the city does as a normal part of the business operations, a cash grant is preferable,” Bowles said. “Donna Stirling of the BC Elder’s Council commented positively about the cash grant option.”

The BC Elders Gathering is coming to Campbell River July 11 to 13, and will be mostly centred at Strathcona Gardens. The event is expected to bring 3,000 First Nation elders and their support people, as well as sponsors, government officials and First Nation leaders to the Campbell River area.

Stirling, event coordinator and secretary of the BC Elders Council, said the society is working hard to have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend the event.

“I have been expecting an answer that I could shout from the roof tops, and message you all about right away but that isn’t the case as yet,” Stirling wrote in a letter to city council.

The group has received confirmation, however, that the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde will attend. Stirling said Bellegarde’s position “is our equivalent to the Prime Minister of Canada and to our knowledge one has never attended the Annual Gathering in its 41 year history.”

The society said it’s also expecting B.C.’s premier to attend as well as Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Stirling said the event is an important one.

“The Elders Gathering is the single most important cultural/wellness/health conference in our aboriginal elders (seniors) lives,” Stirling wrote. “The elders want to meet once a year to continue their 41 year tradition for themselves and future generations. It is their own legacy and it needs the support of community partners so that it can continue and be a credit to the province, the country and to all First Nations.”

The annual event gives First Nation elders the opportunity to share stories, memories, knowledge and perspective. It also provides a forum for the elders to connect with First Nations youth in an effort to bridge the generation gap.

Campbell River last hosted the BC Elders Gathering in the year 2000.