Longtime Fort Langley resident and former Times columnist Paul St. Pierre died on Sunday, at the age of 90.
St. Pierre was well-known in B.C. for many decades, first as a reporter and roving columnist with the Vancouver Sun, and as a writer and chronicler of people and activities in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of B.C. He had a strong interest in people there, whom St. Pierre called in an interview “sufficiently isolated that their personalities could develop independently of the customs and shibboleths of the rest of the world. It was a place where people had strong characters; they knew who they were.”
The interest in the people and the region led to several books, including Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse, and Smith and Other Events.
It also led to a TV series on CBC called Cariboo Country, which ran for several seasons in the 1960s.
In 1968, he switched to politics, running for the Coast Chilcotin seat in the House of Commons as a Liberal. This was when Pierre Trudeau had just been named leader of the party and prime minister, and the Trudeaumania wave led to 16 Liberals being elected in B.C., a high water mark that has not been seen by the party since that time in B.C.
St. Pierre lost his seat by 360 votes in the 1972 election, when the Liberals were reduced to a minority government amidst widespread dissatisfaction, particularly in Western Canada.
St. Pierre was well-known as a sparkling writer of both non-fiction and fiction, and upon his retirement from the Vancouver Sun, he continued to write a freelance column which ran in The Times and many other community newspapers for many years.
In his column, he wrote about the Chilcotin, and observations from his cabin at Big Creek; his road trips; Mexico, where he spent many winters; and the way that government policies and heavy-handedness intersected with personal freedoms.
St. Pierre was born in Chicago and grew up in Nova Scotia. His first newspaper job was with the Dartmouth Weekly in 1940, and then joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941. He was discharged from the service because of a heart dondition.
In 1945, he came west to work for the Columbian newspaper in New Westminster. He moved to the Vancouver News-Herald in 1946, and a year later went to the Sun.
He was married and divorced twice. He is survived by son Paul and daughters Michelle, Suzanne and Yesica.
His health had been quite good until recent months, when he was hospitalized. He died at his home with his family at his side.
St. Pierre’s last published writing in The Times was a letter to the editor, published in October, 2012, on the controversial Coulter Berry building, which has divided the residents of Fort Langley. Entitled “Just leave us alone,” this is how it went.
Editor: I have sent this letter to Langley Township council.
I ask you to do nothing whatever for me or my home community of Fort Langley. Continue supplying water, collecting garbage, fixing potholes and doing the other tasks you do so well. I will continue paying my taxes, which are reasonable. Nothing more is needed.
You are being asked to change our zoning laws to permit a three-storey structure to be built here. We need it about as much as we need a cholera outbreak, but you are told it is for the good of the community.
That’s the reasoning offered by all levels of government — in the long term, it is for our good. You are being urged to end our ban on big buildings, for the good of Fort Langley.
God preserve us from our visionaries. Take a moment to consider our happy pursuit of being small and unimportant.
We do not have magnificent manor houses on rolling acres. We don’t have a huge sports complex, a superstore or a cathedral. We don’t want them, now or ever.
Here people talk to strangers on the street. There is no morning or evening rush hour. And on May Day, there are almost as many people in the parade as there are watching it.
Paul St. Pierre,