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General News · 11th October 2019
Steven Brown
Since April 2019, the Nation has been working to solve the inadequate access to healthcare due to BC Ferries’ unreliable service. First, the Nation purchased a passenger vehicle and attempted to get priority loading for fast, safe and reliable transit from the Island to Campbell River. Being good neighbours, we also offered that any extra seats on the vehicle would be open to the public. Unfortunately, BC Ferries prioritizes for-profit, non-Indigenous owned companies instead of supporting First Nations access to healthcare. It should seem obvious that BC Ferries would want to work with First Nations who are willing to implement projects that benefit all Islanders, but unfortunately they give priority loading to shellfish and livestock transport instead of human lives.

Second, the Nation submitted a request to BC Ferries for priority loading; it was ignored. Councillor Brown attended a ferry advisory committee in June and requested priority loadings for our health care again with a follow up request in July. . After many frustrating conversations, Darin Guenette (BC Ferries Strategy and Community Engagement) assured the Nation that we would get our priority loading. However, due to interference from volunteers on the advisory committee, Mr Guenette retracted his offer, and has stopped all communication while putting the decision of our access to healthcare in the hands of a few, almost all non-Indigenous, volunteers.

With the Truth and Reconciliation Report, incoming implementation of UNDRIP and the Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women/Girls, we had hoped that we wouldn’t need to fight so hard to reduce barriers to healthcare or safe transit for our people, especially our young girls and elders. There are currently over five non-profit/community organizations on Cortes Island and the Sister Nations (Homalco, Tla’amin and K’omoks), submitting letters of support for Klahoose. We are looking to our fellow eleven, Naut’sa Mawt, Nations, First Nations Health Authority and Island Health for support as well. We will be taking all of our support to the Minister of Health, Minister of Transportation, leader of the Green Party and Premier. We will continue to work towards adequate access to healthcare even with BC Ferries and an advisory committee making it incredibly challenging.

First Nations or not, all Cortes Islanders are struggling with BC Ferries not meeting the needs of our beautiful home. We are asking that anyone willing would please write a letter of support for our priority loading from Cortes Island to Campbell River. If you write a letter, please submit them to stevenbrownklahoose.org and the Nation will present them to BC Ferries. This is not something that will only benefit Klahoose First Nation. All residents of Cortes Island will enjoy the benefits of such a helpful service.

Chief Kevin Peacey

Councillors Billy Barnes, Helen Hanson, Michelle Robinson, Steven Brown.


Another sample letter to use
Comment by Ashley Zarbatany on 15th October 2019
To Whom It May Concern,

I would like to submit this letter in support of the Klahoose First Nation’s request for priority loading for a healthcare van. I am a Cortes Island resident who strongly supports the spirit behind this initiative and its solution-oriented proposal to the very real problem of unreliable ferry service in our community.

The frequent overloading that takes place on our ferries makes it difficult for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Islanders to access healthcare services in Campbell River. It is very difficult to make it to appointments when the ferry is overloaded and it becomes near impossible to leave the island in the summertime when our ferry infrastructure is overwhelmed by non-residential visitors. While we are fortunate to have some priority loading to get onto the Quadra ferry, it is only offered to those who get onto the first ferry and this ferry is often overloaded by people who have parked overnight to ensure passage. This practice makes it very difficult for residents who live in Manson’s Landing or Squirrel Cove to access the current priority loading available for Cortes residents.

For the Klahoose First Nation, this barrier to accessing healthcare and basic mobility rights is compounded by many more structural and institutional barriers as a result of colonial policies in the past and present. Colonial policies have systematically marginalized and disenfranchised First Nations peoples across Canada, leaving them economically disadvantaged and at higher risks of violence. This violence has been most evident in the murders and disappearances of countless Indigenous women and girls, many of whom went missing while hitchhiking due to a lack of accessible public transit options. Initiatives, such as this one, that work to reduce barriers to safe and reliable transit are important solutions that can help prevent tragedies resulting from unsafe hitchhiking practices.

The development and support of safe and reliable forms of collective or public transit should be encouraged, not only because it reduces barriers to mobility for the most marginalized in our society, but also because it is an important and vital step towards reducing our province’s greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the climate crisis. The initiative brought forward by the Klahoose Nation is one model of many that we should be supporting to reduce the number of vehicles, and ultimately ferries, needed to transport residents to vital services such as healthcare.

BC Ferries already allows priority loading for shellfish and livestock transport. Why can’t it allow priority loading for public transit options or initiatives such as this one that attempt to both mitigate climate change and reduce systemic barriers to mobility? I encourage you to support their initiative and others like it.

Respectfully,
Sample letter
Comment by Manda Aufochs Gillespie on 15th October 2019
This might not be the best letter, but if you are like me and just want to show support and don't know how to get started, feel free to use this letter...

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a letter in support of the Klahoose Nation’s request for priority loading for a healthcare van.

At stake in this issue is transportation and the special needs of the elderly and disenfranchised. As well, is the question: who gets to have voice in the distribution of our community assets? While getting on or off this island may not seem like an asset, all islanders know what a scarce resource reliable off-island transportation is. Like most assets, this is not one that is equally shared. It is simply harder for elders, youth, the ill, the low-income, and the disenfranchised to maneuver the vehicles, waiting times, and uncertainty that is involved in the process. Providing opportunities for those seeking healthcare services to more easily get on/off the island is hugely important. It is particularly important for those from our indigenous communities who often have more than their fair-share of obstacles to obtaining access to safe and trusted healthcare. Kudos to the Klahoose Nation for managing to organize their resources to provide a positive solution to meet the needs of their community while also serving the needs of the whole of the Cortes community.

Now, let us each do what we can in our sphere of influence, to help our neighbours help the whole.

Please help ensure that the Klahoose Nation gets regular priority loading for their van to allow reliable access to healthcare and other essential services for those that need it.

Thank you.
Thank you!
Comment by Manda Aufochs Gillespie on 15th October 2019
Dear Steven.

Thank you for fighting for this. It's exactly the kind of thing we need in this community and it's an easy way for the community to support the reserve members while also serving the whole.

Sincerely,

Manda