It is no mean task to briefly sum up Pat Carney’s remarkable life. In the 1960s she was the first Canadian female business columnist to write for regional, national and international newspapers. In 1980 she was elected the first female Conservative Member of Parliament from British Columbia. As Minister of International Affairs, she negotiated the original free trade agreement with the United States. As a Senator from 1990–2008 she worked hard to advance BC’s role in Confederation, helped ban bulk water exports, was a vocal advocate for Aboriginal women and was instrumental in keeping hundreds of lighthouses staffed and saving many more through the enactment of heritage legislation.
Her books include the bestseller, Trade Secrets: A Memoir, and most recently, On Island: Life Among the Coast Dwellers, a collection of lovingly crafted stories of coastal life just the right length for ferry reading. Pat Carney has lived for over three decades on Saturna Island.
Protection Island, population 150, is probably about the size of a half dozen Toronto city blocks and an extreme opposite end of the lifestyle scale. Amber McMillan thought it would be a good idea to ditch the Hog town rat race and relocate to the tiny island situated in Nanaimo harbour. So it was that in 2014, she, her husband, their daughter and their cat made a 180-degree, 4000-kilometre change of direction. It did not take long for the dream and the reality to part ways as McMillan makes clear in The Woods: A Year on Protection Island, her highly entertaining, eye-opening reality check on the myth of the laid-back island idyll. Standoffish would be understating the attitude of the “locals” to newcomers. Rules, although unwritten and unspoken, were strictly enforced. For McMillan and her family the experience was neither all good nor all bad, nonetheless, she now lives and works on the Sunshine Coast.
Kathryn Gretsinger is a journalist, a former CBC broadcaster and an Adjunct Professor at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism.