GUEST COLUMN: The importance of discussing opinions

We might have lost our ability to have these healthy and often necessary conversations

I arrived in Summerland in 2011, settled my family, and established a little business in this incredible community.

The vistas, quality of life and recreation facilities, just to name a few, made it a simple decision to relocate to Summerland.

With my career as a member of the RCMP, I have worked all over this country and abroad.

I would like to believe that I have gained knowledge and experience dealing with different cultures and challenges along the way.

However, it seems we were always able to bring people together, discuss difficult issues in a respectful manner without prejudice or fear of reprisal for sharing our opinion or position.

It was my responsibility to ensure everyone was treated fairly and respectfully, no matter how sensitive the issue.

I remember as a teenager, the great family dinners we had at my grandmother’s home with my aunts and uncles.

Some of the discussions were controversial, such as common-law relationships — living in the same house without being married (my family was raised Catholic.)

It was over 40 years ago. Everyone around the table had a different opinion.

Some agreed and some disagreed and yes, there were heated arguments.

However, from an early age, these debates taught me something important and this is still a big part of me today.

Every member of my family respected each other’s opinions, views and left the dinner table without any fears of reprisal or being labeled.

I truly enjoyed these conversations and debates around the dinner table and I missed them.

Now, fast forward to 2017 right here in Summerland.

I believe we might have lost our ability to have these healthy and often necessary conversations among ourselves and as a community.

Since my arrival in Summerland, I can think of many situations and issues that have divided our community in many ways and have left me wondering what has become of respect and the healthy exchange of ideas.

It appears there is no middle ground or compromise. It is one or the other.

With the arrival of Facebook and social media it has become even more difficult to exchange ideas without being judged.

I asked a local business owner his position on a certain land development and I was informed that he could not take a position because his business would suffer either way, even though he had some possible solutions to offer on this issue.

Where are the compromises, the healthy conversation, exchange of ideas without fear of reprisal or personal attack on your position?

Why should we care about this? What is the danger to our community?

I ran for office during the last civic election without bias and with a lot of enthusiasm, energy and some innovative ideas.

Today, I question if I could even run for office again after witnessing the divisiveness and aggressive behaviour occurring in our community pertaining to controversial issues.

I know many individuals who could contribute so much to our community yet have chosen not to get involved.

Now the question we should ask ourselves is how many are there not willing to get involved because of the lack of respect shown for each other?

We as a community and as individuals need to reflect on our behaviour and actions.

I understand some topics are sensitive, sometimes challenging our own beliefs, and we are extremely passionate about them.

However, without respect and an open mind we may never be able to move forward in order for us to become the best community I know we can be.

Roch Fortin is a Summerland entrepreneur and the owner of Maple Roch.

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