The life and times of politician Coralee Oakes

Marian Gillard on the MLA’s Cariboo beginnings

Coralee Oakes. Contributed photo

Columnist Marian Gillard digs into Coralee Oakes’ past – a time before she became MLA for Cariboo North.

During the month of May, 1972, there may have been many howling babies born in G.R. Baker Hospital, but on May 16 a girl with a destiny was born.

Her life on a newly established ranch in Moose Heights gave Coralee positive living standards, some of which we now consider old-fashioned. She has lived in the Cariboo all her life, except the seven years of her college and university studies, and her diligence and open-heartedness have made her many more friends than enemies.

The activities of farming required the whole family to pull their weight. Coralee loved to read and her favorite authors as a young child were Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote Little House on the Prairie, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame.

In her older years she read books by Frederic Eric Rowe, whose family grew up on the prairies.

One of her favorite memories was of one summer evening. She had just turned 10 and she and her friends decided to play kick the can.

Somehow they were still outside at 10 p.m., and they looked up at the sky to see one of the most exceptional displays of the northern lights that Coralee can remember.

Moose Heights was a close community, and Coralee spent much of her free time with her grandparents, who lived nearby. She and her grandmother still enjoy a close relationship.

Coralee has mainly positive memories of her school years. She was happy with most of her teachers, but her favourite was Mrs. Paterson, a nun who taught her about faith. Coralee’s Grade 5 teacher was Mrs. Fraser, who taught the children to think differently about life and how to brainstorm ideas on how to change the world. Coralee feels this teacher had a great influence in her life.

When she was 16, and feeling bored with life, Coralee went with her grandparents Harold and Kitty Hartley to a meeting of the new Reform Party.

She found herself agreeing to be part of the executive and, at age 19, she ran for the federal nomination, which she won. Coralee is always encouraging the younger generation that their voices really matter, and they should never fear giving their opinions.

It was natural that Coralee should want to continue her advanced schooling. She attended college in Kamloops and went on to the University of British Columbia. She got really interested in modeling the United Nations and other social causes she was passionate about.

She studied political science and the arts. She was always planning to take up teaching, but by the time she finished her Bachelor’s degree, she was well into supporting the newly formed Reform Party. She still feels that in 10 years from now, she may well go back and study for her teacher’s degree.

At this time in her life, Coralee has many challenges, yet she has been taught to do her best, organize her activities to produce results, and she has many friends who are always willing to support her.

She has always felt there is a strong hand guiding her life and she speaks of a strong sense of purpose and faith.

Watch Shaw Channel 10 to catch an interview with Coralee, which will expand on this article.

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