Of late, Kelowna has billed itself as a city that embraces diversity.
It says it doesn’t discriminate based on age, race, sex, sexual orientation, colour or creed. It has a rainbow crosswalk, allows religious symbols in its parks and its leaders are a multi-ethnic mixture of men and women.
And it’s not just those who can speak for themselves that now enjoy the support of the city. Animals of all sorts, from cats and dogs to horses and even Canada geese, whose eggs are “addled” rather than destroyed to stop the fouling of city parks, are treated with the respect one would expect for another living thing.
So it should come as no surprise that earlier this week, council went to bat for another voiceless member of a local minority that was facing a type of persecution, someone who was being pushed aside despite years of long and tireless service to the community, someone who, it seems, is held in higher esteem and affection by local residents than city bureaucrats may have realized.
His name is Ogopogo.
When the legendary—some may even say mythical—lake monster needed our political representatives to step up and defend him, all members of council did just that.
With his place on the Kelowna city parade float in jeopardy, one councillor after another lined up to give Ogie, a ringing endorsement. After all, isn’t that part of what being an elected official is all about— speaking up for those with no voice?
What sort of society would we be if we turned out backs on the mythical lake monsters among us, jettisoning them from their jobs as community ambassadors in the name of rebranding?
Sure, Kelowna may be “active by nature” and offer a breathtaking array of outdoor activities for those of us who are of the human persuasion. But what about those who lack the legs to hop on a jet ski, the arms to swing a golf club, the dexterity to swoosh down the slopes or the feet to peddle a bike?
With apologies to the local fruit and wine industries, Kelowna’s main claim to fame for many outside this area is still Okanagan Lake, and that is Ogopogo’s home. What he does—when not appearing on the city’s parade float—is swim. And so do so many others who come here to enjoy the summer sunshine and the local beaches.
So I applaud council for standing up for Ogopogo and, by extension, for mythical lake monsters everywhere, for allowing them to continue to give back to their communities as hardworking symbols of their towns, villages, cities and regions.
And if Ogopogo could have been at city council earlier this week, I’m sure he would have been thankful too. Or maybe he would have eaten the councillors, who knows?
But either way, council did the right thing by keeping him “afloat.”
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.