Winds of change

June 30, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 14
Katie Doke Sawatzky |

In a couple weeks, my family and I will move to my hometown, Regina, where I’ll start school next fall. Maybe it’s because I’m in a time of transition in my personal life—books packed up, clothes and toys in boxes, cleaning buckets everywhere—but I’m sensitive to winds of change around me.

It started with our Prime Minister, who committed Canada to decarbonization at the G7 summit in Germany in June. Admittedly, it’s a goal set for 2100, but I never thought I’d hear that kind of admission from Stephen Harper, who has banked everything on Canada’s oil and gas industries.

And then you have the Pope’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise Be), which tells “all people” to recognize the harmful impacts of climate change and change their consumptive behaviour. He begins the whole thing by quoting his namesake, Saint Francis: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.” Wow!

And then there’s the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), made after hearing testimonies from residential school survivors. These changes, most of them demanded of governments, will acknowledge the rights of aboriginal peoples and the legacy of residential schools.

As an eco-justice-minded-but-cynical sort, I’m used to being indignant towards systems that fuel negative change and wary of leaders’ efforts or intentions. In fact, I’m so used to being cynical that when even a glimmer of hope, of concrete change, shows (like the PM’s admission about decarbonization), it catches me off guard. But leaders can be moved and their words, political or holy, can be powerful.

It feels like these words have been a long time coming. But while winds of change are evolutionary, they can also be a force that demands to be felt.

In mid-June, my family and I took the ferry to Vancouver Island to visit friends. There had been a windstorm the night before and by the morning the winds had died down only slightly. The captain told us to hang on for safety and later changed course to avoid rougher waters.

People still went on the outside deck. Hair in their faces, jackets billowing, they had to crouch to get back inside. One boy stood on the deck, and, perhaps because he was all alone on the port-side bow, stood straight up with his arms out-stretched, leaned back, and let the wind hold him up.

My cynicism tells me to laugh at Stephen Harper’s commitment and count it some kind of campaign ploy. And as much as I love the Pope’s eloquent words and support the demands made by the TRC, I wonder about the responses. What will happen? What will everyone do with these words?

But that’s just the thing. There are moments after words are spoken and before action is taken, when, just for a little while, we can ride the wind. When change is in the air and Hope picks up and hits with such force that it’s hard not to think of the Spirit at work. These moments happen and I’m thankful for them.

That day on the ferry I stayed inside the boat. I wish I hadn’t. Everyone who went outside to feel the gusts on the deck came in with smiles on their faces.


Katie Doke Sawatzky is a writer and freelance editor. She’s moving from Vancouver to Regina in July. She can be reached at

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