Discord: the key to reconciliation

by LAURA KEIL, publisher

Discord. It can mean two sounds that lack harmony. It can also be a disagreement between people.

Discord isn’t nice to listen to. It can be ugly. But it is important.

I was reminded of this importance at the McBride Community Forest AGM. It’s true that the AGM portion did not allow public participation. And following the meeting, many people stood up to say their piece on what was wrong with the community forest.

What is good about all this?

I was impressed not so much by the words of the people at the front of the stage, but by their silence – their ability to listen.

They gave answers where it was appropriate, but most of all they sat still on the hot seat. That is not easy to do.

Many of them bore no responsibility for things people complained about. Indeed, the community forest has had a long history – no one person is responsible.

Even when audience members’ questions morphed into grandstanding, the MCFC board, Village Councillors and managers did not interrupt them. I found this breathtaking and heartening.

It would have been easy to shut people down – interrupt them and limit the time they had to speak. But they didn’t do this.

Yes, the community forest managers have a lot to answer for – including a recent lapse of not renewing the cutting permit. This is a serious mistake.

But rather than clamp down on discussion and enter a defensive mode, they were willing to stand in front of the public. This is an important way of being accountable.

I learned a lot from what the public had to say, and I imagine the board and managers did too.

Without discord – that is, without open communication about how we feel, what we think is wrong, and what we perceive to be the truth – there can be no reconciliation.

I applaud Community Forest leaders for allowing this discord to take place so fully and openly.

It’s important we don’t confuse discord with cacophony. Discord is useful and if we listen carefully we’ll hear not two notes that sound bad together, but people simply speaking in different keys.

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