Montreal

Quebec Eastern Townships man opens private forest to others, in spirit of reconciliation

Terry Loucks's property in Stanstead Township is the first "healing forest" to be created in Quebec, part of a Canada-wide initiative launched in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

First of its kind in Quebec, initiative is part of Canada-wide effort to honour residential school survivors

Terry Loucks, from Stanstead Township, Que., said spending time in nature has always helped him during tough times, and that's what pushed him to open up his property as a 'healing forest' to share with others. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

Terry Loucks has spent years roaming the two-and-a-half hectares of land he owns in Stanstead Township, a sparsely populated community on the eastern shore of Lake Memphremagog in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

"This forest has always healed me, through the many problems of life that I've encountered over the last 38 years — so I'm sure it can heal others," said Loucks.

Loucks is opening up his land to the public, making it the first property in Quebec to be included in the National Healing Forests movement, a country-wide initiative that stemmed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The network of healing forests were imagined as spaces where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike could reflect and connect with nature and honour residential school victims and survivors. 

Terry Loucks walks down a trail in the healing forest he has opened to the public behind his home in Stanstead Township, Que., with his friend Paul Conrad Carignan. (CBC)

When Loucks heard about the movement, it appealed to him immediately.

"An individual, a community or an organization can plant a tree, can have a garden, have a memorial rock or have a forest," said Loucks.

"I just happened to have the forest."

Over the years, he's created eight different theme gardens in his forest that people can discover.

He's noticed that as people walk through the trails, they are drawn to different places for different reasons.

"A walk in a forest is experienced very differently by everyone. That's what's fascinating."

Abenaki territory

Loucks​ asked his friend Paul Conrad Carignan, who is Métis, for input on the project. Carignan has spent the last 25 years learning more about his Abenaki heritage.

Abenaki people, including elders from the community of Odanak, near Drummondville, have already shown interest and provided input into Loucks's project.

Paul Conrad Carignan, who is Métis, has developed a relationship with people from the Abenaki nation in the Eastern Townships and in Vermont, who helped Terry Loucks bring the project to life. (CBC)

"I've made good friends from this contact here," said Carignan, who is hoping to see families connect with the space.

Access to the property is free of charge, but Loucks is still looking at the project like a business venture, which he hopes to see flourish over the long term.

"This is my own legacy, if you will — I did not have any children. I don't want to give [the property] to the government," said Loucks.

He is looking to set up a fund to make sure the land remains accessible to all once he is gone.

Terry Loucks said each visitor a favourite spot in the forest, which shows the very personal connection people can find in nature. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

- With files from Spencer Van Dyk

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claude Rivest

Journalist

Claude Rivest is a videojournalist covering the Eastern Townships. Email him at claude.rivest@cbc.ca, or follow him on Twitter:

With files from Spencer Van Dyk

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