Nanaimo Regional District Tries to Banish Writers

bee on tansyJust two days before our Sharing the Fire gathering of writers is scheduled to begin at Thistledown Farm B&B in Cedar, BC, bureaucrats from the Regional District of Nanaimo have threatened to shut it down. The event involves about a dozen writers and artists gathering for three days (August 28-30) to discuss creative approaches to ecological and societal problems. Five of us have been planning this event for a year. Some participants are travelling from as far away as Whitehorse, Toronto, and the United States to participate.

Regional District employees seem to think that a dozen writers getting together for a creative think-tank on private property is illegal. They have threatened to seek an injunction to bar the pre-registered guests from gathering this weekend at Thistledown Farm. What will these bureaucrats next decide is illegal? Dinner parties in one’s own home? 

The gathering will, of course, proceed. It is not illegal for writers to meet in Canada. Perhaps the RDN bureaucrats are thinking they exist in some other era or some other country. If the RDN bureacrats wish to dress up as jack-booted fascists and come kick the door down and haul away a dozen authors, perhaps they should wait until Halloween so we can give them some candy and send them on their way.

Kim Goldberg
August 26, 2015

The following media release was issued today by the owners of Thistledown Farm B&B, Laurie Gourlay and Jackie Moad:

For Immediate Release: August 26, 2015 

Writers & Artists Not Welcome, says Region 

‘Fahrenheit 451’ alive and well in the RDN 

CEDAR, BC – Threatening to seek an injunction, and to prevent future gatherings, lawyers for the Regional District of Nanaimo couriered Cedar farm owners today, giving them until 4pm to shutdown a planned writers and artisans retreat for this weekend.   

Just under the deadline the owners replied, denying they were breaching any rules, and questioning the RDN’s selective application of vague and dated by-laws to stop a dozen writers, poets and artisans from coming to Nanaimo. Since Monday RDN emails have repeatedly stated that rules against “public assembly” and camping on private property are sufficient reason to prevent the visiting writers from spending a quiet weekend on the farm – but the property owners don’t understand what the problem is. 

“If the RDN wants to claim North America’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ reputation then this is the way to do it,” said Laurie Gourlay, one of the farm’s owners. “Chasing away writers, from across Canada and the US, who just want to get together to discuss literature and the arts? I don’t get it.” 

Thistledown Farm is a 20-acre working farm and registered B&B, with membership in the Ladysmith & Area Accommodations Association. The farm advertises through the Nanaimo Economic Development Commission’s Tourism Nanaimo brochure, and supports efforts by Tourism VI to build interest in the area as a destination for ‘super, natural BC’ vacations. 

“We like to share the property with people who care about nature and local agriculture,” says Jackie Moad, who divides her time between being an RN and being a farmer. “As well as running a B&B we volunteer with community groups, and we know how hard it is to get enough money for projects and planning. So we make the farm available for free to six non-profit groups and charities every year. This is the first time there’s ever been a problem.” 

The couple’s letter challenged the RDN over the refusal to allow a few of the writers to camp on their farm, noting the contradiction with approval previously given “by the RDN for camping on private property for a UN student workshop in the past. The RDN appears to be insisting that past precedence should be ignored.” 

Moad and Gourlay have also taken issue with the RDN’s use of the rule against “public assembly” to try and stop the writer’s gathering, suggesting “that a dinner party, or meeting of a community group, could just as well be subject to the rather intolerant interpretation you have applied to the upcoming weekend gathering of writers that we expect to host.” 

The couple end their letter by noting that the RDN has acted “in a demanding and insensitive manner – without attempting to first gain a full understanding of the circumstances. It is apparent that there has been little consideration for the writers who are coming, or the repercussions to the economy and Nanaimo’s reputation.” 

Moad and Gourlay state they are prepared to discuss the matter further, or to challenge the RDN’s assertions in Court if necessary. But, they would prefer an amicable resolution that’s fair to one and all. “Respect and due process is a right in a democracy,” says Gourlay. “We won’t be burning any bridges or any books on the farm this weekend.” 


Jackie Moad and Laurie Gourlay

Phone: 250 722-7223

Thistledown Farm
2689 Cedar Road
Cedar BC, V9X 1K3

About Kim Goldberg

Kim Goldberg is a poet, journalist and the author of 8 books of poetry and nonfiction. Latest titles: DEVOLUTION (poems of ecopocalypse), UNDETECTABLE (her Hep C journey in haibun), RED ZONE (poems of homelessness) and RIDE BACKWARDS ON DRAGON: a poet's journey through Liuhebafa. She lives in Nanaimo, BC. Contact:
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19 Responses to Nanaimo Regional District Tries to Banish Writers

  1. Shocked and appalled. Have you notified Times Colonist? Local TV news?

  2. Bunchof Hogwash says:

    Nazism alive and well

  3. Jan Stephens says:

    Just have to respond, as my Daddy taught me to not believe everything you read/hear. I just spoke to the RDN and here are a few points that are not pointed out.

    1. They have only provided advice to the owners at this point.
    2. The reason they got involved was due to complaints from neighbors having had to deal with past gatherings on the property.
    3. It is not private in the fact that they are charging ($60.00) for accomodations and meals.
    4. Had it never been advertised and private invite only with all monies kept behind the scenes they would have not gotten involved. The rep said truly they have better and more productive ways to spend their time than policing events like this.

    So heads up for the next one, shush and don’t advertise and then be respectful to your neighbors and you will be fine!!

    • Kim Goldberg says:

      It would have been ridiculous not to advertise our event, so don’t be silly. The people who have registered did so because they saw our announcement and description of the event. Even so, we will only have about a dozen writers there. And, hard as this may be for some people to grasp, it is legal for a dozen writers to meet on a friend’s farm to discuss ecology and arts. BTW, the RDN has never once mentioned monetary issues in any correspondence with us.

      • Jan Stephens says:

        Yet you advertised that it would cost $60, so now it is not just a gathering of like minded individuals but a business adventure according to the bylaws. I am a very creative person and although not a writer, I am a photographer, web/graphic designer, songwriter and musician. Totally onside with any gathering that promotes ideas, solutions and creativity. Please do not tell me that I am silly, that is just a demeaning comment. The person that I spoke would not have brought up the monetary if it wasn’t part of the issue. When I said don’t advertise, what I meant was don’t make it come off like an event that has cost involved. Have an email list that people can get the information from, problem solved and you won’t have an issue.

      • Kim Goldberg says:

        You are being silly Jan. And since this is my blog, I will reply however I choose to silly comments. The only reason we would “hide” from public view in the way you are insisting we should have is if we are doing something wrong, illegal, nefarious, if we were say plotting the overthrow of government or an act of sabotage. Then yes, that needs to be back-channeled. To back-channel this event, to hide it from public view, would defeat 90% of our reason for organizing this event – namely to spread the Dark Mountain message. Vastly more people now know about the Dark Mountin Project (UK) and its manifesto and activities as a results of our public promotion of this event than the mere 12-13 people who will actually show up. It would have been INSANE for us to throw that away and hide in fear from RDN thugs when we are doing nothing wrong.

        Clearly you are driven by fear. And that is too bad. But we are not. In a free society people who are doing nothing illegal do not need to hide events they are planning. Astounding that some people need to have that explained.

        As for charging money: first of all, we have to pay for food. You understand that don’t you? We can’t just go rob a supermarket on our way out to the farm. Secondly, the initial plan made many months ago when the program was written had been to pay the owners something for the use of their space. That plan has been abandoned since the owners (who will also be participating in this event) have now donated the space and will even house us if the RDN thugs simply cannot cope with a few tents being pitched on 20 acres for 2 nights.

        If you feel a need to acquiesce to any and every illegitimate wielding of authority by some petty bureaucrat, or to hide your legitimate and legal activities because of it, then I feel very sorry for you. But don’t expect free-thinking individuals to be so easily cowed.

  4. Ron Stead says:

    Four of those wannabe, fascist dictators are from the Nanaimo City Council. Who’s names were on the order, or did they hide behind a lawyer.

    • Kim Goldberg says:

      As far as we can tell, this is coming entirely from the bureaucrats in the bylaw department. I am not sure the RDN Board of Directors has been involved in this. It seems to be a bylaw dept vs property owner thing, with the bylaw dept having some bizarre axe to grind against this particular working organic farm and licensed B&B in Cedar.

      • Jan Stephens says:

        Kim, please re-read my comments. I spoke to the RDN, so yes they are involved now because of complaints that they received from people that live in the area of the farm. Perhaps a walk about of the neighborhood to find out how they feel might be in order instead of trying to blame “authorities” that are just responding.

      • Kim Goldberg says:

        Get a grip Jan. Read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or something. A dozen writers meeting quietly for a weekend to discuss ecology and arts is NOT a crime. End of discussion.

  5. ron says:

    reminds me of “Leadercast” Where is Ezra when you need him. 4 city councilors and “the” Mayor are on the RDN board. 3 of the 4 councilors voted to stop the leadercast program. The 4th councilor is new to the council. My, my, RDN does great work. Why is this a concern, 1 or 2 neighbors complain, neighbors will always complain, wherever they may be. Good luck with your program and I hope RDN sees the light and your neighbors get a life.

  6. durgadas says:

    This is a chilling RDN move here. In my case, let’s say I want to teach a yoga class in my friend’s barn. I charge money for it, and 1 person shows up. Now, this is a “public meeting” and me and Babe and Charlotte the spider are making webs saying “Some Pig” and people gather to witness the wonder. Now, Ima Gonna Needa Lawyer.

    Seriously, is this North Korea? Is Kim Jong Il a featured presenter? Or just a member of the RDN?

    • Kim Goldberg says:

      Exactly! The precedent this would set if the RDN gets away with forbidding this small gathering of writers is very chilling indeed. Pretty much anything could be deemed illegal. It’s mind-boggling.

      • durgadas says:

        This needs a proper legal challenge, or the mobilization of people in the RDN to move to change or make better/more specific the bylaws.

        It seems to me wrong (and wrongness like this is seldom approached- someone on the Titanic was wrong…) that we can make bylaws that casually do away with constitutional rights, basic human rights (free assembly is a pillar of that, for example), or just common sense.

        All of this to prevent an annoyed neighbor? This is the fundamental difficulty with bureaucracies. Unseen overreactions, ethical firewalls and hidden agendas abound. We don’t need more rules, we need more love. If we were all loving toward each other, of what use would rules be?

        Reading the RDN bylaws is like a little trial military state. Words MATTER, which is precisely the point of having an author’s gathering.

        It seems to me that a cogent response using powerful words is an excellent task for some subset of your author’s group.

  7. Harri Maki says:

    Are these to be imagined as hooligans,
    my mind spins at the the thought that someone imagined such a thing.
    Take responsibility and pay all the costs to cancel something at the last moment.
    Get your mind right.

  8. Jim Taylor says:

    Posting the RDN emails and the letter threatening an injunction would be enlightening.

  9. randsco says:

    Well, writers are generally known to police, being such a rowdy & garrulous group! Lawbreakers! LOL

    WTF? Whole thing just sounds weird. Why would the RDN get involved at ALL? I mean, if you’re burning illegally or making a ruckus at 1 AM, then maybe … but until then, you should be free to enjoy your property as you see fit.

    Hope the event is successful and everyone has a great time!

  10. Pingback: Into the Flame | The Dark Mountain Project

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