Its pretty rare I step into the realm of advocacy as I'm not one who likes to rock the boat. I'm a poor swimmer anyhow. But reading a recent post from a fellow blogger at Fort McMurray Musings hit my frustration button. Theresa does a fantastic job at highlighting all the great things going on in our community and is a wonderful writer to boot. I've done my fair share of traveling around this great country, from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver Island, from Point Pelee way up to Resolute Bay, Nunavut. While I may have grown up in southern Ontario, I now find myself in Fort McMurray and proudly call it home.
I wish Ms. Murphy, writer of the SUN News article in question, would get out of her bubble and see the bigger world. Many of things you think you know about a place very often turn out to be wrong. (Of course, this is SUN News we're talking about here so I may just be engaging in wishful thinking and wasting my breath.) I've lost track of how many ill-informed and just plain ignorant comments I heard about Nunavut when I lived there. Nunavut isn't some barren wasteland. PEI isn't about potatoes and Anne of Green Gables, Saskatchewan isn't endless fields, Vancouver isn't the sole refuge of long-haired hippie protesters. Heck, even Toronto grew on me after awhile. Fort McMurray isn't all about "hookers and blow" and the flavour of her article suggests. We are definitely NOT a one horse town.
Now I did some searching a managed to locate an online version of the news item which can be foundhere. I realize the article has to do with financial matter but to simply thrown in statements about life here with no one to rebut them, she simply adds to old preconceptions. Perhaps Ms. Murphy is unaware, uninformed or simply has never paid our fair town a visit. Regardless of the reason, I found it necessary to fire off an email giving her my two cents. You can find my response to her article below.
Dear Ms. Murphy,
As a resident of Fort McMurray I am writing to express my disappointment and disgust with the focus of your recent article on Fort McMurray. While any growing urban centre has its issues I feel that focusing solely on problems and not counter-balancing this with the many positive things about our community only serves to reinforce prevailing negative stereotypes.
Contrary to what Mr. McGuire [a man interviewed in Murphy's article] states, the vast majority of Fort McMurrayites are not wandering around Franklin Avenue with "a ton of disposable income" and "little else to do." I myself bought a house and moved here with my family of 4 kids. I suspect there are many other families here as well. I can assure you there is PLENTY to do here. Those who complain there isn't simply aren't looking hard enough. We have the largest rec. facility in Western Canada, if not the country. We have an outstanding Junior Hockey Team in the midst of a stellar season. We have nature trails in spades, nearby Gregoire Lake Provincial Park, and many outdoor pursuits I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of. We have theatre events, concerts, a fantastic public college, a brand new middle school and high school that are a tech-lovers dream, tons of free events during the summer, community groups and clubs to suit all tastes and passions (apparently, there is even a scuba diving cub in town.)
And did I mention last summers KISS concert, and last season's first ever outdoor AJHL game which set an attendance record? I could go on. Writing an article, the simple gist of which being that people here have only "hookers and blow" to occupy their time is simply not accurate. On behalf of the many Fort McMurrayites who make this community our home, we invite you to come visit us to get a fuller picture of all this community has to offer. The idea that Fort McMurray is a one horse town is a ridiculous and facile stereotype. We who live here know best.
A Proud McMurrayite and Albertan.