March 14, 2017 – The Honourable Judith Guichon, OBC, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia

portrait-guichon-lgThe Honourable Judith Guichon was sworn-in as the 29th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia on November 2, 2012. Prior to this appointment she owned and operated Gerard Guichon Ranch Limited in the Nicola Valley in the British Columbia Interior. The Guichon family has ranched in the area since 1878 and Her Honour’s father-in-law was awarded the Order of Canada in 1974 for his leadership in Cattleman’s Associations and his contribution to agriculture in Canada. Two of her four children now manage the ranch with a 700 head cow calf and 700 yearling operation.

Her Honour studied Holistic Management, a farming method which promotes sustainable management of livestock by emphasizing their natural habitat. Along with her late husband, commercial pilot Lawrence Guichon, she introduced Holistic Management to the ranchers of British Columbia.

Her Honour was also involved in several organizations. She served on the local hospital board and Community Health Council and was on the Community Health Foundation board. Prior to this, she served as a 4-H Leader and started a recycling society in Merritt, B.C. with neighbours. She also served as a director for the Fraser Basin Council of B.C., director of the Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C., member of the Nicola Water Use Management planning committee and played the flute in the Nicola Valley Community Band.

Prior to her term as Lieutenant Governor, Her Honour served on the Provincial Task Force on Species at Risk and completed a two-year term as the president of the British Columbia Cattlemen’s Association. She has also been a part of the Ranching Task Force for B.C. and the British Columbia Agri-Food Trade Advisory Council.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, and raised on a farm near Hawkesbury, Ontario, Her Honour moved to British Columbia in 1972. She and her husband, Bruno Mailloux, maintain a residence in the Nicola Valley.

Text of Her Honour Judith Guichon’s presentation:

Her Honour the Honourable Judith Guichon, O.B.C.

March 14, 2017

Mr. Jones, President of the Probus Club of Vancouver, and Mr. Nick LeMoine, Website Committee, members of the Vancouver Probus Club and visitors if there are any, thank you for this invitation to join you for your monthly meeting of your Vancouver Probus Club, especially as I did hear that there’s cake being served.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging with respect the long history, the wisdom and the culture of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations on whose traditional territory we are privileged to gather today.

Where to start?

Back in Montreal where Nick’s sister-in-law Cathy and I, along with Gail, our army brat, got into a 1960 Austin Cambridge, a wonderful little vehicle, and drove those 5,500 miles. You converted it, Nick. That’s good! I wouldn’t know how to do that in kilometres and all without a flat tire across Canada. We wanted to learn more about Canada and I remember vividly that we went to Victoria.

We stayed with a lot of relatives we had between the three of us across this country. I remember taking a side trip to Victoria, to Butchart Gardens, before heading north up the Alaska Highway. And yes, all three of us married fellows we met in Yukon. Guys in Montreal are shorter!

And one of us stayed married. Cathy returned to the East and became CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association in Ottawa and went on to adopt a beautiful Chinese daughter, a beautiful little girl. Gail, our third adventurer separated from her husband and left the Yukon after raising her children in Ross River where they stayed home from school when it reached minus 50. She came south, became a lawyer, became a judge and sat on the bench in Abbotsford, her office right next to Stephen Point’s.
So amazingly, two out of the three of us that left Montreal in that little Austin ended up with a close relationship with Stephen Point, my predecessor the previous Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. I think that’s quite a remarkable story in itself.

But that’s only one part of the story. As you’ve heard, I married a commercial bush pilot, who, at the time, was flying in exciting places like Old Crow and Inuvik doing the original caribou study for a pipeline a long time ago. That pipeline never got built.

One morning not long after we’d been married we were in Inuvik at the time, Lawrence rolled over and asked what I thought about going back down South to his family ranch. January 1972. So I was back in the Nicola Valley, moved into the cookhouse where I, who grew up as the youngest of six and had never learned to cook, was now in charge of preparing meals for unsuspecting cowboys on a very large black wood stove which also heated our water. It was a steep learning curve. In Montreal, Cathy and I had specialized in Kraft Dinner and Triscuits. But I moved up the ladder from cook to bookkeeping and dragman on cattle drives. The dragman is the lowest guy, the slowest guy on the slowest horse behind the slowest cattle at the very back.

I was very fortunate, though, as I had a wonderful mentor, my late father-in-law, Gerard Guichon, who went to receive the Order of Canada for his work in agriculture. He took me under his wing and treated me with great respect from day one and wherever we went on the road it was a teaching moment, a teaching trip.

Lawrence and I attended a lot of courses and I took courses in accounting and we went to courses in Alberta and Texas and New Mexico. Always learning and researching more about farming and ranching ideas. We were privileged to learn from many great leaders: Temple Grandin, Dr. Bert Brink and William Rees, and Gerard always allowed us to try new ideas.

Then we attended our first course on holistic management. Again, it was Gerard who heard about it and bought us some tickets to go to a five-day program in Alberta. Well, it changed everything about how we managed and functioned on the ranch from that time forward. We took a lot of courses on both sides of the border and became quite involved in both the Canadian and international holistic management movements. We organized courses in our own community and invited fellow ranchers and a lot of ministry folks to attend those courses. We did annual planning based on our holistic management model. I just brought it along because it wasn’t computerized in those days and still would be hard. It’s just a thought model but it puts all things in order and it certainly changed how we viewed and how we planned. Our planning now was not based on the next harvest cycle or the next financial cycle. In fact now we did our planning based on what the future generation would inherit, what the land would look like, what our vision for that land was 100 years down the road.

Holistic planning is based on the work of Allan Savory who classified land and did a lot of work in the reaction of land based on its aridity and classified land on a scale from brittle to non-brittle. Being in the Nicola Valley we were a very brittle land, semi-desert cactuses, so how we used tools and how they effect land in our circumstances is very different than the Fraser Valley. As ranchers or farmers, a lot of children used to visit the ranch ranging from kindergarten all the way to third year at UBC. I would always ask them what it is they thought we were harvesting and of course the answer is sunshine, the most renewable resource on earth. On our ranch we harvest it through the grass because in the Interior we have some wonderful native grass that can fatten livestock just as well as grain. So cows are the tools we used to harvest these plants and turn them into a product for human consumption with very little fossil fuel input. We can’t grow trees very well. They don’t grow well everywhere on the planet, but we have five million acres of hope, I’ve heard it referred to, because we have grasslands the world over. Plants are carbon pumps as they split the oxygen and store carbon. Ruminants are required for the maintenance of healthy grass plants otherwise eventually they are removed through fire, which releases carbon back into the air.

This is a very short version of the hierarchy of the ecosystem functionality that describes how good management affects carbon storage and it works like this. I’ll just quickly go through the hierarchy of the ecosystem functionality. When we reduce biodiversity or plants – you see this a lot with farming techniques today – we reduce biomass which reduces photosynthesis which reduces carbon uptake and the manufacture of oxygen which in turn reduces the accumulation of organic matter and causes disruption of the nutrient cycle which reduces fertility in turn reducing infiltration and retention of rainfall which changes soil moisture which changes relative humidity, which changes weather and leads to climate change. Fortunately, we can reverse this all by just increasing plant cover, increasing biomass, increasing photosynthesis, increasing carbon update and the manufacture of oxygen. We can thereby increase accumulation of organic matter, restore healthy nutrient cycles and increase fertility. We can increase infiltration and retention of rainfall thereby increasing soil moisture, which improves relative humidity and positively changes weather and climate. So, that’s how farmers can help with carbon storage.

2015 was declared International Year of Soil by the United Nations and I took advantage of that to lecture every student and a lot of politicians and others that I met along the way about the importance of healthy soil because healthy societies rest on a foundation of healthy soil. Do you folks know how many living organisms there are in a spoonful of soil? More than all of the people on earth. So my priority program “Stewards of the Future” is the one that gets me up in the morning and keeps me running. Shortly after my late husband and I first embraced holistic management over 25 years ago now, we were introduced to the work of Dr. William Rees from UBC whose theory of ecological footprint estimated that humanity’s total demand on the amount of biologically productive land and sea area to supply resources and assimilate associated waste is equal to 1.5 planet earths. I presume that’s assuming a North American lifestyle, which has fast been adopted in many Third World countries.
Secure accessible and healthy supplies of water, food and energy are essential requirements for human dignity and well-being. These elements all depend on thriving biodiversity supported by properly functioning ecosystems. So many ecosystem services when provided by nature function very well but are taken for granted. When we interrupt those services and have to depend on engineering it becomes very costly. The complex interdependence of these factors known as the climate nexus is the subject of a new little text by Dr. Jon O’Riordan and Robert William Sandford in conjunction with Simon Fraser University. I tell my children that books often jump off the shelves at me and my daughter said, “yeah, mother you’re on the ferry and it’s a rough sea.” But anyway, I bought that book on the ferry because I had worked with Dr. O’Riordan years ago when he was Deputy Minister – I think the Ministry was Sustainable Development in those days – when we were doing water planning in the community. They actually came and took part in our “Stewards of the Future” project. So it’s an excellent little book called Nexus.

And these are the subjects or issues that my “Stewards of the Future” program must address because these will be the issues our future leaders have to address. Our program, which is directed to above Grade 10 level, is an attempt to get them out of their classroom and into their community to explore issues that will be the challenges faced by them as our emerging leaders. Issues around farming, fishery, forestry, mining, transportation, jobs, energy, water and biodiversity. We ask the students to inform themselves, really inform themselves, about their chosen project. Visit and explore an actual mine or a landfill, a sawmill or a hydro project or a sewage project. And ask questions. We then want them to attend a meeting of their elected officials whether it’s their regional district, band council, city council, whatever level, and ask questions of their elected representatives.

My goal for this conference is for young people to attend from all over British Columbia. I want to get young people from the Peace River, from Stewart, BC, from the Lower Mainland, from Vancouver Island, to get them together so they can learn to communicate with each other because they come from very different geographic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and very different perspectives. I want us all to learn to listen respectfully to each other and to learn from one another. I want them to explore their surroundings, to ask questions, to take what they may read in the newspaper or online as an opening but not the whole story. To learn to dig, to find out more than what the headlines report on the subject, to communicate with elected officials, to question and to advise them, to get involved, to explore, always explore, to develop critical thinking.

In early June we bring about 75 of our future leaders to a weekend conference. Our initial one was at Lester B. Pearson College in Victoria and last year it was at UNBC in Prince George and this year it will be on the Sunshine Coast. We bring in amazing speakers to engage the students. The first year we brought an astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk and author J.D. Mckenna as well as industry leader Peter Bentley and last year we brought in Jon O’Riordan and Robert Sandford among others.

We want these students to discover exactly how vast this province is and the tremendous diversity that exists here. So few explore the diverse richness of this province. The 100 million year-old crocodile tracks and Tumbler Ridge now only the second UNESCO geopark in North America or the Kinuseo Waterfalls on the Murray River just outside of Tumbler Ridge. They are actually an inch higher than Niagara Falls but how many of us down south know about them? The Port of Stewart, BC. The most northerly year-round port in Canada. The Grand Canyon of the Stikine, the Peace River. So many incredibly magnificent diverse places in British Columbia.

2017 is a unique and busy year throughout Canada, especially here in British Columbia. Right across the nation we are commemorating our sesquicentennial and challenging all the schools I visit, to teach the children, to learn to spell it. It’s not hard: S-E-Q-U-I-C-E-N-T-E-N-N-I-A-L. And I’m taking advantage of this ceremony, this anniversary, to visit 150 schools in order to talk about our history and the role of the vice-regal representative in our constitutional monarchy. I tell the students why the Fathers of Confederation chose this form of government with an analogy to the third little pig. You do remember the story of the three little pigs? They want their house to last so they built it on a strong foundation. The Fathers of Confederation wanted that strong foundation to underlay and allow democracy to flourish.

On April 9 there will be commemorative services around the world as we mark the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Thousands of Canadians will be travelling and we will be on site for that event and there will be an epic fly-over of Vimy Ridge. The vintage World War I aircraft some of which are replicas that have been built by the members of the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley will take part. The Nieuports and Sopwith Pups flown by ex-military pilots and supported by a team of dedicated Canadian volunteers are on their way to France at the end of the month. When the Amazing Planes return to Canada they will fly from coast to coast stopping at cities along the way to educate all Canadians about the birth of a nation and how our country came together 100 years ago at Vimy.

Of course, in British Columbia we are celebrating the event 100 years ago – you gentlemen might not think it’s as significant, but women achieved the right to vote 100 years ago in BC this year and British Columbia continues to be the site of many firsts in women’s issues including being the first province that elected a woman to public office, Mary Ellen Smith. Our present speaker in the House, the longest-sitting MLA, has been a champion for women in democracy and continues to push the boundaries. Linda Reid was one of a dozen women elected in 1991 and before that time there had only been 32 women since Mary Ellen Smith first entered the Legislature in January 1918. That number in February 2016 reached 102 with the election of the first female First Nations representative with Melanie Mark in the by-election. Linda Reid is also the only female speaker in the legislatures across Canada. Only one other woman has served in the legislature as long as Madame Speaker and that was the inimitable Grace McCarthy. And I doubt there are many provinces that currently have more women in positions of leadership than British Columbia. Not only the Premier, the Attorney General, many ministers, the head of BC Hydro and even our Lieutenant Governor are women.

So this long journey that started in Montreal and took me to the Yukon, Northwest Territories and back down south to BC also includes, as you heard, four children. My husband Laurie and I adopted one and then two and suddenly two more and had a wonderful foursome. But in early July 1999 our world took a dramatic turn as we lost Laurie. My four children and I, with the incredible support of neighbours and crew, carried on. I would not have managed without the holistic planning, which, having been done in February every year, meant that I knew exactly where the cows would be every single day of the year. There were some humorous incidents, however. One time I went to show a buyer where they were, but forgot to check the chart and didn’t know where to find ‘em.

People kept suggesting names of possible gentlemen that could manage for me but I knew that with the holistic planning I could carry on.  Two of my children are now back on the ranch, fifth generation on our ranch and when I received the phone call from the Prime Minister’s Office it could not have been at a more opportune time. I was actually having a nap having been out riding early in the morning but I had just reached the magical age of retirement and in agriculture many of us don’t have a retirement plan and we often stay way beyond our best before date and don’t allow the next generation to step up and to spread their wings. So this was an opportunity for me and an incredible opportunity to continue to learn and travel in the province.

Perhaps ranching seems like a strange background for a representative of Her Majesty but here’s the connection: there’s a quote by Charles Kellogg, an American soil scientist who in 1938 said, “do civilized nations fail because the soils fail to produce or does soil fail only when people living on it no longer know how to manage their civilization?” So which comes first the chicken or the egg? Two books I’ve recently read, Collapse by Jared Diamond and Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson lead me to believe and I think history shows, that they go hand-in-hand.

We’re now experiencing weather episodes around the world that make it obvious that climate change is very real and that we must adapt. During our “Stewards of the Future” conference last June, Robert Sanford described to the students the causes of some of the unusual weather we see around the world today. For every degree of temperature increase there’s a seven per cent increase in atmospheric moisture so we have these rivers of moisture up to 400 kilometres wide and thousands of kilometres long. Add to that the changes of the jet stream caused by decrease in arctic sea ice and you have longer lasting weather patterns therefore warm and cold fronts end up and persist in places in the mid latitudes where they were not common in the past. Storm Warning – this was a book that Robert Sanford handed me at the end of our “Stewards of the Future” conference last year. His latest book and I recommend it highly. I gave one to the Prime Minister when he was in my office. I’ve been handing them out to everyone I can. It tells exactly what we’re seeing. For all those in municipal and provincial governance, the cost of adapting our infrastructure is going to be very significant.

On my visits to schools I end my talk to students by telling them about my three ‘R’s which are on my coat of arms: respect, relationships and responsibility. Because I believe we must all have respectful relationships with one another and with the land that supports us and that we all have a responsibility to leave our community, our province and our nation in better condition for all those who follow. Two things I also tell students: how important it is to become involved in their democracy when they reach the age of majority because I would say democracy is not an armchair sport. I also tell them the importance of volunteering and I use the example of Government House and so many of our communities. In Canada, our communities are run and healthy because of our volunteers.

That’s the main thing I wanted to tell you about my role.

Questions and Answers:

Q. I was interested in your talking about ranching I understand there are very large corporate type ranches in your neighbourhood and I wonder how that impacts on your holistic approach?

You would be referring to my next-door neighbour Douglas Lake. When we held our courses, all of their cattle managers, their grass managers and Joe Gardner all attended our courses. Douglas Lake in my time has been owned by three owners, but in their long history they’ve had two grass managers or cattle bosses and for the last 30 years one farm boss and Joe Gardner’s been there for 38 years or so. So very consistent management. The issue of corporate ownership, land ownership is a different issue altogether I believe. We have corporate and non-corporate ownership but management is quite separate often. I see poorly managed individual land. That doesn’t make the difference in the management. Douglas Lake happens to have very good grass management. Now whether ranches that get that large how they influence is a different question altogether but certainly at Douglas Lake they’ve used a lot of the same principles. They’ve got very good grass management and excellent wheat management.

 

  1. Could you just explain to us how the Order of BC is awarded in British Columbia?Well there’s a committee. The committee, which encompasses… Jerymy, can you tell me there’s one member from the previous on the committee?

    [Jerymy Brownridge, Private Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor] The Chief Justice, Madame Speaker, a couple of past year’s recipients. There’s a fairly robust committee. It’s a nominating process and it’s agreed by consensus through the board and Her Honour is Chancellor of the Order but necessarily remains at arm’s length from selection itself.

 

[Judith Guichon] And I know I have in past public announcements tried to encourage people to send nominations. We’ve tried to get that word out throughout the province rather than… it’s more precisely understood in Vancouver and Victoria.

 

  1. With the increase in carbon dioxide to 400 PPM, have you noticed any changes in the Nicola Valley over the last say 40 years? Is there any sort of greening going on or is it mainly aridity that controls the green? 

    Yes. We’ve noticed changes in the weather. Actually I was with Minister Polak on Saturday at the Abbotsford event, a wonderful event, The Sky’s No Limit – Girls Fly Too. Just a wonderful event that’s being put on out there and Kirsten Brazier, the pilot who organizes it, the weather just never helps that girl! Last year winds blew down all the tents. This year the rain was so heavy and the Minister of Environment, Mary Polak, was talking about how the snow pack is less than normal. Ask the farmers in Chilliwack that, because we are getting our moisture and precipitation in valley bottoms and that’s part of the changes. Our valley in the Nicola Valley it stayed green last year. That’s the first time in my 45-year history and I’ve certainly never heard about it in my late husband’s uncles and so on who talked about grasshopper years and the droughts and fires and so on. So, definitely. We’ve had snow at above the 4,500-foot level but not above the Douglas Plateau. We haven’t had snow for 10 years. We’re getting some this year. My son’s very happy he might not have to have the water truck out by the 30th of March this year but we pulled water for the last 10 years an awful lot.

 

We’ve seen quite dramatic changes in the weather. All over. With the fire seasons down in the States, the fire, the cattle that are being killed this year in the fires. And what we’ve seen in California that’s so typical, the drought but it went on so they lost their plant cover and when the rains just came now they’ve just lost soil.  The pictures of the water flowing and in Australia terrible flooding. They can’t drink water from some of their reservoirs, because, after drought, when the rain comes it builds up very fast and accumulates soil, which disturbs the reservoirs.

 

  1. Over the years have you changed your breeds of cattle? 

    Yes sir and that’s a great question. I could talk about that for a long time. Actually, we’ve been using Speckled Park cattle, which is a Canadian breed developed in Saskatchewan in the ‘50s. Very few Canadians knew about it, but Australians have been using our Speckled Park genetics for years now and it’s just sort of been discovered in the last two years. You start to see them in the 4H show ring. It’s a bit of a smaller breed and it’s actually a short horn. The old fashioned Angus is not quite as tall and the British White Park one of the oldest foundations of domestic cattle breeds. Because we grass finish some of our cattle they are a little smaller frame and don’t require quite as much feed and we use them for heifers because they are easy calving. But we have a lot of British Angus in the herd as well.

 

  1. You place a lot of emphasis on the preservation of soil. Where is river conservation on your agenda?It goes hand-in-hand. We’ve actually done a lot of electric fencing along our creeks to keep cattle out of water. Years ago we bought a little portable solar and wind generator that we can take all over the country and pump out the water holes and therefore not let the cattle into a water trough and keep the cattle away from the riparian areas. So, to the best of our abilities, we are keeping cattle out of the riparian areas wherever we can. With all of our spring grazing country, once we went to holistic management, our cattle are only in each field three out of 365 days a year. On our Crown range, it’s a little more difficult because we’re not allowed to build fences on Crown land. But just by moving the cattle more frequently and allowing areas to recover, we’ve been able to improve riparian management dramatically.

 

 

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