Christopher Justice’s family has lived in the Cowichan Valley for a couple of generations. After earning a doctorate degree in health and social sciences, Christopher taught at McMaster University and conducted a wide variety of research in global and multicultural health issues. Fourteen years ago, he and his wife Patricia moved back to the Valley to raise their two children.
Christopher cares deeply about his community. He was elected to Council in 2018. Before that he was an active member of several organizations focused on local issues: a member of the North Cowichan Environmental Advisory Committee, a director of the Social Planning Cowichan society, and a director of the Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society.
My family roots run deep in North Cowichan. My mother's parents had a chicken farm on Herd Road and then managed the ice locker plant before home freezers were commonplace. My father's parents had a small farm in Crofton and then one on Bell McKinnon Road near where the new hospital will be built. Though my parents moved to Vancouver to go to university and ended up settling there, I grew up spending summers and holidays here with my grandparents and family friends. I couldn’t help but become permanently bonded to this beautiful valley.
After completing a doctorate degree in medical anthropology, a branch of social science focused on health, I taught at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. I also conducted a wide variety of research in global and multicultural health issues, including the development of educational HIV/AIDS interventions with traditional healers in Zimbabwe and with the Somalian immigrant community in Toronto, community healing initiatives among Canadian First Nations peoples, and end-of-life care in both Canadian long-term care facilities and in spiritually oriented hospices in India.
It was a project studying seniors’ health in diverse areas of Hamilton that made me truly appreciate the importance of well-planned neighbourhoods. Factors such as walkability, greenspace, a feeling of safety, social structure, and character have a huge impact on the well-being of residents.
Fourteen years ago, my wife Patricia and I decided to move our family back to the Cowichan Valley. We wanted our kids to feel connected to their family history and benefit from growing up in a small rural community with a beautiful natural setting. We hoped (as most parents do) that the Valley would be a place our children would want to stay or return to after gaining some worldly experience. The preservation of our great community and its viability for future generations obviously has a strong personal significance.
Since returning to North Cowichan, I have become involved in several community issues. I worked with the Quamichan Watershed Stewards in their effort to find a solution to our increasingly damaged lakes. I sat on the board of Social Planning Cowichan, which has been doing good work researching and keeping our community informed on issues such as affordable housing, reconciliation, and climate change adaptation at the neighborhood level. I also sat on the North Cowichan Environmental Advisory Committee, which gave me considerable insight into how important environmental issues are handled during land use and other policy decision-making.
In 2018, I successfully ran for a seat on North Cowichan Council, on which I have now served for almost 4 years. During this time it has become clearer to me how important processes of municipal governance and decision making are for every aspect of our community’s quality of life and how our future will unfold.
All of this experience has made me realize that our community is filled with people who have both deep local neighbourhood knowledge and specific skills that until now have not been fully utilized. I truly believe that our community will be better served if we can find ways to integrate this collective skill and knowledge base into policy- and decision-making processes.