The Chilliwack Walk For Peace on May 20 is a way for the community to rise up to take positive action in the wake of recent violence downtown, says co-organizer Amber Short.
“I think you can either choose to define your life by the negative things that happen, or you can choose to define yourself by all the things you are grateful for,” said Short.
“My outlook on Chilliwack is very bright.”
The Walk for Peace is at the Courthouse Plaza at Five Corners starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night, with local residents, and business owners carrying candles and a banner.
“I’m so passionate about Chilliwack,” says Short, owner of the Book Man, which has been open on Wellington Avenue for more than 26 years.
“I live in the downtown and I’ve worked downtown most of my adult life, but at the same time I’ve travelled internationally, and I’m not naive about what is going on.”
There was some blowback from some steamed members of the community online, demanding action from RCMP and from the mayor and council at city hall. One local restaurant business announced it is closing because of the rampant crime downtown.
“Everyone loves bad news, and it’s easy to get people riled up, but being open as a business in the downtown is an investment in the community.
“I chose to be here, and in order to make it better, we need more people working and moving downtown,” said Short.
Local downtown resident Emily Sayward and co-organizer of the walk agrees with Short about just how special Chilliwack is.
“I personally have found that for any incident of crime, or an unjust action, there are endless amounts of kind gestures pouring goodness back into our community,” said Sayward. (See her Letter to the Editor) “We live in Chilliwack because we love it here.”
Several crimes or incidents of violence in rapid succession can definitely feel overwhelming.
That’s when some folks succumb to fear and negativity and “begin to stereotype,” she said. “We pull away from the community and begin to put ourselves first. But I do not believe this is the way to create positive change,” said Sayward.
Several people who love Chilliwack are behind the Walk for Peace, she noted. Speakers will include author and inspirational speaker Glenda Standeven, Coun. Sam Waddington and Mayor Sharon Gaetz, as well as Skwah Chief Robert Coombes.
“Hold your head high; be proud to live here and remind yourself that this is a good place!” Sayward wrote in her letter to the community.
“Let’s remind ourselves and other residents of the downtown core that Chilliwack is a place filled with incredible people who want nothing but the best for their neighbours.”
The walk is a concrete way to quell the negativity as a community, and replace it with positivity by taking to the streets together.
“I just think we are a community of awesome folk and we live in the lap of paradise,” added Short.
The recent incidents may have felt shocking because Chilliwack has been largely sheltered from some of the rampant criminality and street violence and has not grown impervious like some residents of big cities.
“We can still rise up as a community to do something,” she added.
They will be taking a peaceful walk, resetting intentions at certain hotspots in the DT “to remind each other what unifies us,” according to the event info.
“When faced with something shocking or unpleasant, sometimes the best thing you can do is to step forward with something positive. It helps you feel like you can make a difference, and strike some sort of balance,” said Short.