Every day, someone in Nelson is doing something extraordinary.
Whether it’s creating art, saving lives or charting the course of this city’s future, the people residing in the West Kootenays’ most populous community are what makes it great. With that in mind, here’s our picks for 2017’s most interesting people:
Kori Doty: The Slocan Valley parent’s child was granted the country’s first non-gendered health card in late June, a story that generated global news coverage.
Doty’s eight-month-old child, Searyl, received a health card with a ‘U’ (presumably for unspecified or unknown) where the child’s gender would normally be shown.
Doty, a non-binary trans parent who doesn’t identify as either male or female, wants to keep Searyl’s gender off all official records. Searyl was born in B.C., but at a friend’s home outside of the medical system, so there was no medical genital inspection when the child was born.
A news release from the Gender Free ID Coalition stated that Doty was the applicant in a judicial review of the decision by the Vital Statistics Agency to refuse a birth certificate for their child. The denial of a birth certificate initially also meant that Doty, a non-binary trans parent, could not get a medical number for the child. But the Medical Services Plan relented in mid-July. Later, without explanation Searyl’s health card arrived in the mail, gender “U.”
Doty will argue in the upcoming judicial review that requiring a gender marker on a birth certificate amounts to a violation of Searyl’s rights as a Canadian citizen to life, liberty and security of the person, to freedom of expression, and to equality under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Gender expression has been a protected ground in B.C.’s Human Rights Code for a year and has just been added as a ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The Gender Free I.D. Coalition is supporting Doty in this case, as well as a companion human rights case. Both cases seek to halt the practice of specifying gender on birth certificates.
Doty also has a weekly radio show on Kootenay Co-op Radio called Sex, Drugs and How We Roll where they discuss gender and other health issues.
Andrew Bellerby: The RDCK’s regional fire chief was the point person in the West Kootenay during a historically bad year for wildfires in B.C. A former anti-terrorism specialist and incident commander in the United Kingdom, Bellerby kept the region in constant communication its fire departments and helped lead evacuation plans for communities like Harrop that were on the edge of wildfires.
CJ Blye: Bringing together Nelson’s sports organizations was no small task. But Blye, the city’s first recreation co-ordinator, also managed to lead 25 groups in developing 26 recommendations meant to map out the future of sports at Nelson’s downtown rec campus. Blye also masterminded September’s Festival of Programs and is a key figure in plans to re-assess public ice use.
Heather Gottlieb: Hundreds of babies half a world away will live thanks to the Nelson gynecologist. Gottlieb spent six weeks in Nigeria delivering and treating infants who were often suffering from complications such as heart failure. As part of her work with Doctors Without Borders, Gottlieb was also responsible for educating women on how to have healthy pregnancies.
Astrid Heyerdahl: Touchstones Nelson’s new executive director made a splash in her first year leading the museum, archive and gallery. Heyerdahl organized a gala in June to fund an expansion into the nearby Diefenbaker bunker, opened up the gallery to include music and dance groups, and brought in a variety of exhibits that included First World War soldiers and Pride Parade events. She’s also one of the people behind a movement to bring more murals to downtown.
Michelle Mungall: There was little doubt Nelson-Creston’s MLA wouldn’t be re-elected in May. But no one could have expected the NDP would eventually take power, or that Mungall would be at the forefront of the fledgling government. As Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, it was Mungall who was in the middle of the NDP’s decision to continue the Site C dam’s construction — despite her vocal opposition to it. ^
Robert Neufeld: A picture he took from his front patio ended up earning Neufeld international acclaim. The local nature photographer beat out over 14,000 entries to win the top prize at the International Photography Awards. Neufeld is an accomplished composer who writes for documentaries and TV shows, but it was what he did behind a lens that brought him a whole new audience.
Nick Sparrow: The full-time emergency doctor at Kootenay Lake Hospital doesn’t have much free time. But Sparrow, a father of six, is on call for every major motor vehicle accident in the Nelson area. He volunteers his time to save people from overdoses and injuries like broken bones while using supplies he purchased out of his own pocket.
Nelson Street Outreach: Jeremy Kelly, Ryall Giuliano and Bernadette White spent the year saving lives in downtown Nelson. The three-person team were regulars on Baker Street where they offer basic supplies to those living on the streets, as well as assistance in connecting with social organizations such as Nelson CARES. The experimental project is set to continue in 2018.
Rahaf Zwayne: We interviewed this Syrian refugee in early 2017 after she’d been in the Kootenays for half a year. In Syria she was a student of fashion design and a peace activist, and in her eloquent Star interview she opened our eyes to the reality of life there. Since then she’s been doing well at Selkirk College studying hotel and resort management, and she’s working to get her father and brother to Canada.