Twenty nine years after he instigated Salmon Arm’s sister city relationship with a Japanese city, Chris Filiatrault once again returned to city hall to help with the exchange.
On Monday, Aug. 19, Filiatrault, fluent in Japanese, helped Mayor Alan Harrison and Couns. Louise Wallace Richmond and Debbie Cannon welcome the group from Inashiki as well as supporting the Japanese guests as they expressed their thoughts and appreciation.
Filiatrault had moved from Salmon Arm to Japan in 1983. His idea for the exchange was accepted in 1990 and, in 1991, then-Salmon Arm Mayor Dick Smith went to Japan.
A formal declaration hangs on the wall of room #100 in city hall, along with other mementos of the exchange, which the group leaders were happy to see.
“There’s been a lot of support for it,” Filiatrault said, mentioning mayors, school district officials and staff, and families – too many to name them all.
“I think it’s time to retire – I’m going to be 60 pretty soon,” he said Monday with a smile. He adds he’ll always join in “but it would be good to see young people come up with some fresh ideas.”
Overall he said the exchange has been really wonderful, all the forging of international relationships.
“All the people I’ve met and all the fun I’ve had; it’s been a very good part of my life.”
At Monday’s welcome of the 16 junior high students, three senior high and four adults from Inashiki, the students bravely took to the lectern to speak in English about their families, their favourite foods, hobbies and their wish to make good friends in Salmon Arm. They were praised by mayor and council for their excellent command of the language.
The group leaders spoke of how happy they are to be here, how nice everyone has been, how proud they are of the exchange and how their wish is to keep the exchange going strong.
Salmon Arm’s exchange has been recognized by the Japanese consulate-general for being one of the three longest running in Canada. The exchange actually began with Azuma-Machi, but that community became amalgamated into Inashiki.