Cameron Orr, 37, was born in Mississauga, Ont., and found himself with his mom, dad and brother moving to B.C. when he was just six years old.
They would move to the Sunshine Coast, more specifically Pender Harbour as his dad, Dave Orr, wanted a change of pace.
“My dad wanted to get his own business,” said Orr. “I think he just got a little tired of the Toronto lifestyle, he wanted to downsize a bit.”
“I always joke about growing up there, I remember getting a haircut once and Tim Hortons had just arrived, someone came in with a box of Timbits and my haircut stopped because the barber and everyone gathered around and talked about the new Tim Hortons,” said Orr.
Despite a much slower pace, the Orr family enjoyed what Pender Harbour had to offer.
“The first year we lived in Pender Harbour I remember my dad saying that it was the perfect place,” said Orr. “It snowed Christmas Day and then it melted by the time it was Boxing Day.”
Orr attended Pender Harbour Secondary School and after graduating, applied to a number of universities, ending up at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George. It may not have been his first choice but it worked out in his favour.
“I always say everything in life that I maybe didn’t plan for actually worked out quite well for me, Prince George was a nice experience,” said Orr.
He met his wife Kristy at the university in a dorm hallway during an orientation activity. His goal was obtaining an English degree in hopes of being a teacher.
“I was going to be a teacher at one point, I think that was still my ambition,” said Orr. “I started to figure out that I just didn’t have the patience or the skill, I guess, to be a teacher. I think it just takes a certain level of patience that I don’t think I have.”
While at UNBC he joined the student newspaper named “Over the Edge” where he became the news editor. Orr realized that he enjoyed writing articles and telling stories, he also enjoyed getting to talk to people.
By the summer of 2007, Orr and Kristy had wrapped up their schooling and were ready to move on. They returned to Kitimat, Kristy’s home town, where she began working at the local law office. Orr also wanted to find work.
Orr eyed The Kitimat Northern Sentinel as a potential place to work. He had been previously introduced to the-then editor Malcolm Baxter. One fateful day Orr returned to the paper and met Baxter having a smoke break.
“I walked up to Malcolm who was having a smoke break and I reintroduced myself, I was dressed nice enough in a button-up shirt and I said I actually lived in Kitimat now,” said Orr. “I even had my resume in an envelope and he took a break from his smoke and said that their reporter is leaving in August. Can you start then?”
This was also Orr’s first time working at a professional paper and having studied English it meant he had a tall task ahead of him learning Canadian Press (CP) style.
“Yeah, it took me a while to get my style, Malcolm was very good at teaching me CP style,” said Orr.
“It was super scary. I had never worked at a professional newspaper before,” said Orr. “It was just getting over a lot of anxiety. I remember not liking to pick up the phone to call people and you don’t always know what to say to them.”
Orr felt very welcomed into the community and enjoyed his time with the paper. As most new Kitimat residents will tell you, Orr was also not prepared for the amount of snow that the valley town received.
He felt accomplished as this was the first out-of-school job he received. In 2009 he was offered a chance to be the editor in Smithers.
“Becoming editor of a paper was a really good career step and the pay jumped from a reporter to editor,” said Orr.
The couple married in Kitimat in 2010 and they made the move back to Kitimat in 2012 as they were expecting their first child. Baxter told Orr that he was planning on retiring and this gave him the opportunity to take over as editor at the Kitimat Northern Sentinel. There was a small hiccup in the plan with a small child balancing work and life. It was proving to be difficult.
“I was quite tired at that time in my life, eventually I took a vacation like a couple of weeks off when my son was born,” said Orr. “I told [Northern Sentinel publisher] Louisa [Genzale] at the time, between the baby and the job I was burning out, so I’m actually going to take a proper parental leave.”
The leave was nearly five months and it gave Orr time to be with his family and take care of their new son. He returned to the job at the paper following his leave.
It was time once again for Orr to make his next career move and that was to the Haisla Nation as its communications coordinator.
“One of the most valuable parts of the job was learning more about the culture, I had interviewed chief councillors but I didn’t know a lot about the culture,” said Orr. “That was probably one of the best parts of the job, I got a bit more insight and learned about their history.”
Orr spent six years with the Haisla Nation during which time the young family also welcomed their second child, a daughter in 2019. Orr had learned from his previous experience and took a full year of parental leave.
A couple of years later he decided it was time for a career change. “I think part of that is I had been there for a fair chunk of time, sometimes you just want to know what different kinds of places are like,” said Orr.
That took him to the District of Kitimat, a place he had considered before joining the Haisla Nation. Orr began his new job as the District’s business and communications manager in February where one of the challenges is managing its social media presence.