Kristen Douglas

A look back at the year that was 2016

As time winds down on another year, it’s only natural to recap, review and reassess our accomplishments and our failures over the past 12 months.

It’s also a time to look back on all of the stories that made headlines.

So, myself and a couple of of co-workers put our heads together and came up with what we thought were the top stories of 2016.

Here’s a look back on what made news this year:

All eyes were on Fort McMurray as a wildfire, nicknamed “the beast” for its ability to generate its own weather pattern, raged through oil sands territory.

The unpredictable fire spread quickly and by dinnertime on May 3, the whole of Fort McMurray was under a mandatory evacuation order. It’s hard to forget the scenes flashing across our TV screens of weary, emotional evacuees crawling down the highway towards safety while the flames raged through the trees just off the roadway, dangerously close to the asphalt.

Thousands of homes were destroyed, as well as at least one hotel and gas station, but what emerged from the ashes was amazing.

The support of an entire nation.

In typical Canadian fashion, people from coast-to-coast stepped up to donate money towards the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts. Some even made the trek to Fort McMurray to hand-deliver clothes, money and canned goods.

It was humanity at its finest.

Sadly, also grabbing headlines this year was a show of humanity at its worst.

Thousands upon thousands of innocent lives were lost in Syria amid a raging civil war that has destroyed homes, entire families and livelihoods.

Since 2011, the war has claimed more than 400,000 Syrians. Canada stepped up to the plate earlier this year and welcomed roughly 25,000 Syrian refugees. Here in Campbell River, kind-hearted citizens helped sponsor five Syrians who have settled in our community and are making new lives for themselves, safe from the ravages of war.

Staying overseas, the United Kingdom made some news of its own when its residents voted 52 per cent in favour of leaving the European Union. Brexit toppled Prime Minister David Cameron and temporarily sent global markets tumbling down. Interestingly enough, some seem to have since had a change of heart as a November poll done by BMG Research found that 51 per cent of United Kingdom voters would vote to remain in the European Union if they had another chance.

Closer to home, one of the biggest stories of the year was the American presidential election.

The world watched in fascination as accusations flew and a bitter campaign between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton played out before our very eyes for more than a year. Shock waves rippled through Canada in November when Americans elected the former reality TV host to lead their country for the next four years.

Despite only garnering 46 per cent of the vote (Clinton had 48 per cent), the brash businessman will officially be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017.

Even closer to home, Canada’s Tragically Hip were a hot topic of discussion after frontman Gord Downie announced earlier this year he has incurable brain cancer.

The Hip’s subsequent farewell tour, which included 15 dates over a span of 30 days, kicked off in Victoria and wrapped up in their hometown of Kingston, Ont. in August. That final show was broadcast on the CBC and drew in more than four million Canadians, with 11.7 million Canadians tuning in for at least a portion of the broadcast.

Tickets for the tour sold out in minutes at vendors across the country as people scrambled to get the opportunity to listen live to the group’s iconic sound one last time.

Of course, there are thousands of other stories that made 2016 the year it was, but there are far too many to mention in this space.

Honourable mentions, however, go to: the death of embattled former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford; the earthquakes in Italy which killed nearly 300 people and toppled entire towns; the mosquito-carrying Zika virus outbreak which spread from Africa to South America and was detected in people in both Canada and the United States; protests over the Keystone, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipelines which influenced government decision makers; the killing of 49 people and wounding of another 53 in a terrorist attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.; and, finally, the passing of legislation to allow physician-assisted death for those facing an incurable condition or reasonably-foreseeable natural death.

To recap, it was a year of hate, of hope, of tragedy and of a country pulling together to help out complete strangers all in the name of compassion. With that, I’m ready to close the book on 2016.

Happy New Year, Campbell River, and best wishes for a safe, happy and healthy 2017.