Society to bid on bringing elders gathering to River City

Prestigious $1 million event could bring Trudeau to Campbell River

A local First Nations society is putting in a bid to bring a prestigious gathering of BC Elders to Campbell River.

The BC Elders Communication Center Society and BC Elders Council is vying to host the 41st annual BC Elders Gathering in 2017.

Donna Stirling, secretary for the BC Elders Council, said the society’s elders will travel to Williams Lake on July 11 to present its bid for the July, 2017 Gathering – an event that attracts thousands.

“The annual Gathering would bring 3,000 First Nations elders and their support people, as well as corporate sponsors and government dignitaries and First Nations leaders to all of our communities for four plus days,” Stirling said. “We are very much hoping we will have the honour of hosting Canada’s new Prime Minister (Justin Trudeau) whose father, then Prime Minister Trudeau, and his mother Margaret, toured our area back when he was in office.”

The BC Elders Gathering has been held in Campbell River once before, in July of 2000, and Stirling said that event “stands to this day as the benchmark for a truly quality event with which to honour our respected elders.”

At that time, the event cost $250,000 to host and brought in more than $1 million.

Stirling said that now, “those figures have at least quadrupled over the years with the event itself having a $1 million budget.”

The society’s bid has backing from the City of Campbell River which has committed to help with the bidding process.

City council, at its Monday meeting, voted to not only send a letter of support but also put together a package with information about the community to enhance the bid.

“It could be something our new economic development officer (Rose Klukas) and our tourism group could help out on and make it a true community initiative,” Cornfield said.

Mayor Andy Adams said he would welcome the Gathering coming to the city.

“I think this is another great opportunity for Campbell River,” he said.

The Elders Gathering is a time for people to exchange stories and memories and to gain perspective on how other First Nations live.

The event has been ongoing for 40 years since the first Elders Gathering in Sto: Lo Nation, hosted by the Coqualeeza Elders.

Stirling said the society has put three years into planning to bring the event to Campbell River and “much is already in place should our bid be successful.”

Stirling said if Campbell River is chosen as the host city, the event is planned to be held at Strathcona Gardens.