Tanille Johnston wants to be the first Indigenous city councillor in Campbell River’s history.
Johnston is running for one of the seats on the City of Campbell River council, hoping to be a voice for inclusion at city hall.
“We don’t have any Indigenous representation on our council, and we never have,” she said. “That’s really big personally. We don’t also have a lot of Indigenous employees at the city in general. Being able to be a voice to inclusion in all aspects of the City of Campbell River is really important.”
Johnston grew up in Campbell River. She is a member of the We Wai Kai First Nation and is raising her daughter on the Quinsam Reservation. After living away from the area for 11 years to go to post secondary education to pursue a Master of Social Work with an Indigenous specialization, she moved back to the community six years ago.
“I was pregnant last election and had just gotten home. I really wanted to make sure that I got home, I got settled. I brought a husband home with me, we bought a house, we did all of that as soon as we got here,” she said. “When I left, it was for over a decade. I did come back a lot because family is here, but the community changes. The needs change, the needs grow. Taking the time to learn about what Campbell River is now, who is here and what our city looks like. I wanted to take a moment and take that all in.”
Over the past six years, she has seen that the population of Campbell River has been shifting. More and more younger families are coming from larger cities to the community, she says, and the keystone industries of the community have been diversifying.
“The hugest shift is in moving a bit away from relying fully on logging, mining, milling and fishing. That was the root of Campbell River for so long, and a lot of those industries have come up against really complicated challenges over the years that have really caused some dismantling of a number of them. That has really impacted the city and who we are,” she said.
“I think we’re just re-finding ourselves again as a city and also welcoming new opportunities for investment, figuring out what kinds of businesses we’re going to support, what kinds of development we need to support,” she said. “There are so many people that rely on those industries to feed their families. It’s still a part of our culture, but we’re also welcoming in this new tech culture that we see arriving in Campbell River.”
Johnston also sees equitable access to everything from transportation infrastructure — ensuring that a holistic approach is being taken to update transportation alongside housing projects — to childcare — bringing Campbell River up to par for childcare spaces for everyone — as a major issue in the community.
“Equity across the board: being really real with what access to different programs, services, housing, getting primary care, a physician, all of that stuff looks like for our community on the ground and really letting that play in to how we make decisions as a council,” she said. “We need to look at the whole picture when we’re making decisions and try not to silo our thought processing when we’re looking at different investments and planning opportunities for programs.”
Johnston hopes to add her experience to the council table and to ensure that every member of the community feels their voice is heard.
“I really appreciate listening to community,” she said. “I’m really dedicated to being out there, being accessible and doing the learning we need to do to do our jobs well.”