gerry dore duncan fire cowichan news
This week I’m reprising a photo I took of Gerry Dore back in September. To me, his Station Street hat, Lucky Lager jacket and original look say “downtown Duncan proud.” Gerry lost his life in an apartment fire on New Year’s Eve. I feel lucky to have met him, and that he let me take his picture.
Cowichan Valley

Cowichan This Week: The fire and the flood

An outpouring of community support is the antidote to a bad-news start to the new year.
Jacqueline Ronson January 7, 2021

Welcome to Cowichan This Week, your source for the latest local news and events. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Thursday.


I had no grand ideas that all that’s wrong with the world would suddenly evaporate at the turn of the new year. But it still hurt to come into it as we have — with flood evacuation orders for Cowichan Tribes, which has also just confirmed 23 cases of COVID-19 and issued a shelter-in-place order. With an apartment fire in North Cowichan that killed Gerry Dore and displaced dozens of people.

I met Gerry a few months ago, while covering the planned wellness centre in that neighbourhood. In our brief encounter he struck me as community-minded and kind, and as a person who defies preconceptions. His daughter has set up a fundraiser to help with memorial costs. 

This community, exhausted by ongoing and overlapping crises, still inspires me with its ability to stand up in times of need. Volunteers collected so many donations for those displaced in the fire that they began turning away all but a few priority items. A fundraiser to support those individuals and families has raised more than $23,000. 

Our community seems to be a bottomless well of generosity, but we’ll need more than that. We need affordable rental housing, sustainable flood protection, climate change mitigation and pandemic recovery plans. Here’s to making many small steps towards tackling big problems in 2021. The world doesn’t change overnight, but it can and will, when a community steps up to meet the challenge.


News and announcements

  • Cowichan Tribes has issued a shelter-in-place order for residents of reserve land after 23 members tested positive for COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and 6. Travel is limited to essential trips, gatherings are prohibited and checkpoints will be set up to restrict access and offer information. The First Nation says it is working hard to access doses of COVID-19 vaccines for elders and community members. 
  • Cowichan Tribes has lifted its evacuation order for flood-prone areas of its reserve lands, though residents must still be prepared to evacuate and a boil-water advisory remains in effect. The Cowichan Valley Regional District lifted its evacuation alert for the Cowichan Bay area and continues to monitor flooding. In Lake Cowichan, residents impacted by flooding can help themselves to sand bags at the town’s public works yard on Grosskleg Road.

  • A member of the Chemainus Secondary School community has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating. Case numbers are again rising on Vancouver Island after a dip in mid-December. Province-wide restrictions on events and gatherings remain in effect through at least Jan. 8. 

  • The bridge over Holland Creek in Ladysmith will get built as planned despite protests against it, the Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle reports. The Town of Ladysmith released an FAQ in response to concerns over the project.

  • Chemainus Elementary School’s Treble Makers took second prize in the CBC Music Challenge for their rendition of October by Alessia Cara, the Chemainus Valley Courier reports

  • Cabins will replace tents on Friday at two temporary housing sites in Duncan, the Cowichan Valley Citizen reports. The sites were established last year to shelter people through the pandemic.

  • Youbou’s famous elk made the Globe and Mail this week in an article about conservation and how the herd and the community are learning to live with each other. 

  • Coast Salish Elder Raymond Charlie is fundraising to publish a memoir of his experiences at residential school, the Chemainus Valley Courier reports


Community events

  • Saturday, Jan. 9: 🐈 Cowichan Cat Rescue will collect donations of returnable beverage containers at the McFrugal’s parking lot in Duncan, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m, to support its programs helping feral cats.  

  • Saturday, Jan. 16: 📱 At Save-On-Foods in Duncan, the Youth 20/20 Can Cowichan team will collect your used phones, tablets and laptops to refurbish and distribute to those in need, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Sunday, Jan. 17: 🌳 The Royal Commonwealth Society of Vancouver Island will host Trees in the City, an online conversation with renowned author and biologist David Haskell.

  • Through Jan. 19: 🖼 Visit the Cowichan Valley Arts Council Annex in Duncan to see the Off in all Directions Art Show featuring collages, photography and paintings created by four different women.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 20: 📣 North Cowichan will hold online public hearings for proposed bylaw amendments for three properties. One amendment would allow for retail cannabis sales and the other two would allow detached second dwellings.

  • Sunday, Jan. 31: 🎸 Catch the musical stylings of Sarah Smith, streaming live from the Duncan Showroom, 5 p.m. 

  • Through Feb. 4: 🎨 To kick off its 50th year, the next Cowichan Valley Arts Council member show, Then and Now, will look at the creative evolution of artists. Visitors can see the detours and inspirations people take in their creative journeys. Visit the CVAC website for more information.

What did I miss? Let me know what events are coming up near you by replying to this email. 


Community shout-out

A few weeks back we sent out a survey asking what’s making you feel hopeful, and which people and groups are making a difference where you live.

Leah McIntosh wrote to say that it’s uplifting to see “how kind and supportive neighbours and strangers can be. Kim is my younger neighbour across the street. She makes muffins and pies and goodies to share with neighbours and the fire hall volunteers.”

Thanks Leah and Kim and all of those making an effort to help their neighbours!