One of those Canadian municipalities was For St-John, British Colombia. Fort St-John was actively involved with the CISAL project, participating in many study tours to provide technical assistance and exchange knowledge with women in Peru. The focus of their work has been supporting women leaders and women elected officials, as well as addressing violence against women.

Dianne Hunter is City Manager for Fort St-John, British Columbia. We asked Dianne about Fort St-John’s motivation to join the project, and the impact it has had at home.

 

Dianne Hunter in Chumbivilcas, Peru

 

What was the motivation behind engaging with the CISAL project?

Initially, our main incentive was to work with communities impacted by large extractive projects. There are not many opportunities to learn from others, share best practices, and understand how long term planning and cooperative approaches can lead to amazing benefits for communities. So we were very excited to share our experiences around a large hydro-electric project with other communities that were also affected by large projects. One sector that is most influenced by changes in a community is the vulnerable population or those that are marginalized. It is important to understand the challenges of that sector in your community and design programs to support them. The communities in Chumbivilcas and the City of Fort St. John shared many of the same concerns around youth, people with disabilities, women and seniors so it was a natural fit that we work together on those important issues.

What did you learn from working with communities in Peru? 

The opportunities we have had through the CISAL program allowed us to re-focus much of our attention on the social aspect of the communities, and reinforced that even hard infrastructure such as water and sewer lines fundamentally provide a social benefit at a very basic level. We have started to rephrase many of the questions we ask ourselves when looking at priorities, to take on more of a social focus and value. We have increased our public engagement opportunities to ensure that our projects and initiatives respond to community needs. In other words, the lens that we look at our world through has changed. This leads to better decisions and a better understanding of our community. We have also increased our desire to work with our First Nations communities, to ensure their culture and history is part of the community. We are working to understand our neighbours better, both across the street, as well as abroad.

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