Rob Stewart’s Fight for Bala – Defending and Inspiring a Community
As a marine biologist, eco-activist and award-winning filmmaker, Rob Stewart affected millions of people – and creatures – worldwide. He created “Sharkwater” and “Revolution” which championed shark advocacy and ocean preservation from a previously unseen perspective, spurring a global movement for change.
Rob’s effort yielded an indelible impact on government policy and questionable consumer behavior and has rightfully been heralded by captains of industry, activists, entertainers and an incalculable legion of supporters. Rob fearlessly tackled monumental, (r)evolutionary, global issues but would also take a stand on local matters with which Messrs. Branson, Watson and DiCaprio might not have been well acquainted.
Such was the case in his determination to save the Bala Falls.
In the Huffington Post, Rob said “The Bala Falls Hydroelectric Plant is a Moral Injustice” and he shared how spending summers in Muskoka informed his early love of nature, and declared an urgent need for citizen intervention as political process had failed Bala. Rob overtly questioned how the municipal, provincial and federal governments could allow this dangerous project to proceed with little concern for environmental impact and public safety. He refused to accept bureaucratic rhetoric and he took aim with his camera.
The short film “Fight for Bala, Part 1” served to raise awareness and resources to defend the small tourist town that had been subjected to the influence of a private developer and indifference of regulators for over a decade. The film features members of the community who remain staunchly opposed to the proposed project including representatives from the Wahta Mohawks First Nation, local activists and members of SaveTheBalaFalls.com.
I had an opportunity to aid Rob and his co-director Jonah Bryson during the editing of the film and was privileged to witness Rob’s creativity and leadership first hand. Rob took a high school protégé under his wings, whom he affectionately called “SuperKid” and shared his time, techniques and credits. Always selflessly collaborating and never once pandering to Jonah’s 14 years of age, Rob’s mentorship was truly inspirational.
Rob inspired many people to add their voice and talents. A busload of devoted students from Oakville’s Holy Trinity Secondary School made the trek to Bala to shoot a music video, Jim Toomey’s Sherman’s Lagoon character chided “Water in the hands of a private developer is not right”, Dave Hadfield created “Bala That Was” for YouTube and both seasonal and permanent Bala residents assembled to raise awareness every summer long weekend.
Our oceans, sharks and a small community in Muskoka lost a most beloved advocate, but Rob Stewart’s legacy will endure. With Rob’s energy and focus, work will continue to ensure that any project in Bala could and would be operated safely. Until then, as Rob said… “it is not a done deal”.
Rob Stewart pushed the boundaries, his and ours. He was the brightest of lights. A local hero. A son, brother, uncle and friend to so many. A leader.
Rest in peace Rob.
– Troy Cockriell