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General News · 17th February 2019
Toxic Political Environment Impacts Our Lives on Cortes Island

Amanda and I have now been Cortes residents for over a decade. Sadly, we seriously question whether our decision to move to Cortes Island was so wise. In the time that we have been here we have witnessed almost continuous political conflict. We might not have noticed except that we have chosen to participate in community happenings. We genuinely tried to be good citizens and to integrate into the community. Among other things we became involved with the efforts to organize the annual cleanup of Gorge Harbour now in its eleventh year. We also became involved with the ESS which required numerous meetings and JIBC courses. In May 2017 we organized the Chili Cookoff which included a competition among ten volunteer chefs to raise the funds for an island emergency protection event. In addition, Amanda volunteered with the Cortes Island Harbour Authority and I became involved with Cortes Radio, CKTZ, serving as its treasurer and being active on its Board and we both undertook to work on the station’s emergency response capacity over several years.

Perhaps three years ago we realized that emergency communications was practically non-existent on this island. Since Amanda and I have practical experience with emergency communications from our time at sea, we decided that this was an area to which we could contribute in a unique fashion. We started by teaching ham radio on Cortes. After training perhaps, a dozen people on Cortes we discovered that there was insufficient infrastructure in Campbell River to establish the necessary emergency links within the SRD region and realized that we would have to start training operators beyond Cortes Island. We thus started to train people in Campbell River and beyond. Ultimately, we expanded our training to the SRD including groups in Thasis, Gold River, Zeballos, and Sayward. This often involved teaching full HAM radio courses in remote environments. In the beginning there was no financial support and many courses were taught on our own dollar. Eventually sufficient numbers were trained as to create volunteer emergency communication teams within the SRD and eventually sufficient funding was attracted to support some of our expenses and to provide emergency equipment to diverse groups in the region. To get to this situation Amanda and I each volunteered over 2000 hours each year. To give an example, in the first two weeks of this February we each volunteered more than 7 days in Sooke, Ladysmith, Courtney and Campbell River working on course material and communication teams.

While we have clearly worked many thousands of hours and have achieved some measure of success, the recent deposition of a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia has struck us a terrible blow. The accusations of fraud are clearly baseless yet 14 fellow islanders have chosen to sign this petition. Amanda and I know without doubt that the accusations are groundless. Slander is a poor reward for our volunteer efforts. This is a behavior that should not happen without consequences. This toxic environment makes it extremely difficult to recruit volunteers which has far-reaching consequences for the community. In addition, several persons who recently moved to the island question, as we do, whether the choice to settle on Cortes was wise considering how entrenched political conflicts cripple our community. We state emphatically that the prevailing toxic environment is extremely damaging.
In addition, those of us who tend to be involved must ask themselves why bother. We must consider the reality that we could end up involved in expensive legal combat. In our case, we have had to waste both time and money consulting about the launching a counter suit which might be the best approach to imodify life on Cortes while it would simultaneously expand the current political toxicity. We need to take a step back and understand the extraordinary consequences and deeply selfish effects of the toxicity that poisons our community.

"confidence is silent, insecurities are loud"
Comment by Shelley Ainey on 21st April 2019

The people that appreciate and support all that you have done far outweigh the others, don't let the very few convince you otherwise. Stand tall in knowing that. Cortes needs people like yourselves, as do all communities. And like all communities, big or small, there are always a few that 'want to be noticed' for ego purposes, (i believe) which has nothing to do with community. Thank you and others on Cortes that make it a place we love to call home...
Agreement with Lovena
Comment by Cec Robinson on 18th February 2019
You guys are in the right place.
Don’t you dare go away !!
Thank you so much for what you do!

And did you send this letter to the SRD ?

The SRD are the gatekeepers on this mess, folks.
Send them your letters NOW.

Be sure to address it to the Chair and Directors of the Board, if you want it to be recorded into the public record.

In agreement with Lovena
Comment by Gina on 18th February 2019
I certainly agree with Lovena's comment that each situation can be put to a positive outcome.
I love Cortes and hope all disagreements will melt over time.
Toxic island politics
Comment by Nicola on 18th February 2019
What a darned SHAME.
the power of a few
Comment by De Clarke on 18th February 2019
Margaret Mead famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world..."

These words have often been taken to heart by people struggling for good causes - justice, tolerance, democracy. But I think it bears remembering that every coin has a flip side, and that small groups of committed people can influence affairs in other directions as well :-)

To those who fear that Cortes has suffered some distressing and permanent transformation, or feel disillusioned about our community and regret about moving here... I would suggest not panicking yet. What I think I'm seeing is this: a very small group of people, just a single digit percent of our voting population if that, has launched a reckless and unprecedented campaign to discredit and remove from office an elected politician that they don't like.

It's always easier to tear down than to build. And since it is always cheaper and easier to troll than it is to moderate the forum, always cheaper and easier to harass and malign than to respond effectively to harassment and malignity, that campaign thus far has been cost-effective and impactful. It has succeeded in derailing our local governance. And this should, rightly, concern us. We need to respond, and to get the machinery of local governance back on track.

But this teacup-tempest doesn't mean that Cortes as a community, as a whole, has suddenly lost its way, its heart, or its mind. If there were over 300 signatures on the flimsy petition against R/D Anderson, and only 14 protesting it, I would be really worried. But that is not the case. Cortes is responding, and that response confirms my faith in the essential decency and good-heartedness of the overwhelming majority.

The best thing any of us can do at present, I believe, is to let SRD hear from us. If you have not already written to raise the questions that most concern you, now would be a good time. They should know what we know -- that this reckless, insubstantial petition does not represent Cortes Island, and that it should not be allowed to gum up the wheels of local government.

Letters that are civil in tone and ask focussed questions about process and policy, are more strategic & more likely to be useful in the long run than just venting our anger and frustration; but I'm not going to tell anyone not to say what they think and feel :-)
Find something to do with your lives!
Comment by Susan E. Steffner on 18th February 2019
Reading this tempest in a teapot from a distance, [SOUTH TEXAS} shows me how petty and banal the seeds of evil can really be....when generous and caring neighbors try to support one of their own in funding the replacement of a home lost to tragedy, they are punished and set upon by a hoard of Locusts....Shame Cortesians ! Shame ! You petitioners are burning your own bridges in an obviously false claim....the reported dates of grants do not match the dates of the fund set up to cover home replacement costs. I hope the courts decide for justice and throw out your boggus claim...stop wasting their time.....perhaps the Province will wisely bill ya'll for your frivolous waste....
In agreement
Comment by Lovena Harvey on 17th February 2019
I understand your frustration and pain regarding the toxic political situation. I also felt the blow to my community heart, the part of me that shows up to be on boards, volunteers at events and pays many membership fees a year to keep community organizations running. BUT, what I have come to realize, in a strange way, is this situation is also feeding my community spirit. Like how the Grinch's actions made the Who's down in Whoville more joyous and appreciative... I've been feeling more gratitude and thankfulness for the depth and diversity of this island community. We show up for each other and try to live integral lives. It's a small minority creating this pattern of harassment for perceived political gain. Please don't take this twisted view to heart. Barry and Amanda, thank you. I'm so glad to know about the huge volunteer commitment you've made; makes me appreciate you folks even more than I already did. You are in the right place.
Concerning from new perspective
Comment by Christopher on 17th February 2019
After reading and reading for several weeks I can only speculate as to whats going on other than a couple things we should I believe all stride for in our lives.

First we must strive always to control our emotions and Respond with intelligence, ethics and honour (what else do we have as humans is my personal opinion)! Reacting can be dangerous as it isn’t well thought out and usually is emotional run, such are reactions it is human nature we can not deny this. But intellectually Responding is I personally feel a human responsibility to our neighbours.( even more especially when trying to exude ourselves as a public servant.) Accepting loss and accepting success both have responsibilities and if a community is to come first then respect I feel like it or not respect must be important when we look at this two sided coin. We all have great aspirations no doubt and we genuinely I believe for the most part want the best for our community but if emotionally we cannot sit down and talk to one another without making it a huge matter and including neighboring communities without a sit down and talk and I mean talk to one another as human beings. (communication can make or break us; also leaves a huge area for our neighbouring communities to form a judgement of their own and what if it is far from correct? Are you willing to take that risk on for the community?)

Bring forth a community service first mentality and lets see what growth can be accomplished because from what I have read and being new here im completely shocked and in something of an unease as I found some amazing people here so far and my experiences do not share this extreme political disarray. Honestly if we cant mindfully go and talk with and to one another for resolution amongst peers that hold up our local community than what right do we have to say much at all? I feel personally texting, email do not count as healthy communication as much as being honest in a room full of your peers! I mean im all for justice in the eyes of the community but if its just emotions running this fuel of confusion then I am concerned as to what I feel I was looking into joining because I left a place that said they cared about each other but stabbed each other in the back each chance their emotions outwayed their understanding of their own emotional experience at said time and I would like to be part of something we dont often see in 2019 a community that is full of humble community servants who yes aspire for great things but never at the cost of anyone or the community itself. I wish resolve for all in this as effectively as possible but lets all keep in mind before we get the best of ourselves let make sure our emotions arent running us.

I may be new to this community and not even well established yet but I would like to think of The Cortes Community more for my limited experiences rather than my daily reading so far for if not a bleek outlook I would have!

Much love everyone! Let peace grace us, let us humble ourselves without the aid of others and bring forth a community first mentality when taking part in community service ventures. For if we enter community service for only the benefit of ourselves we cant call it community service can we.
Comment by Bill Dougan on 17th February 2019
Disheartening to read , tragic in fact , and for what purpose I ask .
Personally I do not know 2 people in this island who have donated so much of their time for no reward other then to know that they have helped the community .
For Barry and Amanda this action is a slap in the face and , no doubt personal , as they are named in this frivolous lawsuit .
In the end Barry and Amanda , like the others , will be exonerated but at what cost ? We are only begging to find that out .