We are living in profoundly transformative times, from which I do not believe we will return to a previously known ‘systems normal.’ The next few months will be very hard on many. There’s no way around that.
Many, many of you find yourselves either out of work, in precarious employment situations or with tanking investments. And I know that your funds will be thin. Thankfully, the Federal and Provincial governments are taking extraordinary measures to support you in this time. I’m aware that many need help navigating these new opportunities. My commitment to you is that we will find ways of supporting you.
Some of you are very rightly concerned for your health or indeed your life. My heart is with you. Please take every precaution you can and reach out for help. You may be physically isolated but please know that you are not alone. Community is the unit of resilience. We are only as strong individually as we are together. In this time of disruption, this becomes all the more apparent. We are only as healthy as our collective action is healthy. Our health care system cannot support a large influx of people needing hospitalization at any one time. It is therefore vital that we ALL be as vigilant as we can to not touch our faces, wash our hands, keep social distance, and support our immune systems. Being on an island, we are in a very unique position to help contain the infection and spread – but it will take all of us - 100% participation.
In this last week, all of you have made significant changes in your personal, professional and community lives. I honour your efforts and I’m deeply grateful. Our community gathering spaces are closed (Linnaea and the halls), many businesses shut down (Hollyhock, Cortes Island Vacation Rentals, Island Sea Farms). With all my gratitude, I thank you for your swift and proactive measures.
Now that individuals, businesses and organizations have each responded in their own way, it is time for us to find a collective voice and respond as a community to our larger systems.
Tomorrow I will be hosting a conference call with community businesses and organizational leaders (see list of invitees at the end) to grapple with a few key questions and to create a space to share information. I will be asking the group to consult with their respective organizations and business colleagues to come up with a collective position by Wednesday on two key interrelated matters.
The first matter is our position on visitors. Shall we localize the Federal call to limit unnecessary travel and follow Tofino, Ucluelet, and Quadra in asking all visitors to stay away at this time? The second matter is a proposed request to BC ferries for amended service. Do we want to ask BC ferries to change their service either by decreasing service, increasing dangerous cargo runs, or limiting who may travel? I have been in touch with BC ferries and they are, in response to many islands requesting these measures, looking into what they can
do in these extraordinary times. They want to do everything they can to respect the wishes of the island communities they serve.
I will also be asking the group on the call to do two more things: to share with each other key information and ideas, and to brainstorm how we can support our most vulnerable neighbours in the times ahead.
I know that many of you are anxious and have wanted swifter action and earlier communication from me. I submit that it is only now, after we have assimilated the deluge of information and made our individual responses, that we have the energy to create an island-wide response. Now is it time.
Although we have never before, in living memory, been in such an acute local or global situation, I believe that in ways we cannot yet foresee, this kind of systems disruption will become the new norm. However troubling some of the images are from other parts of the world, and however horrible this will be for many, this pandemic is far less severe than it could be. The mortality rates are low and children are spared. In this country, Canada‘s senior political and health authority systems are responding in a very firm and proactive way and I am proud of their efforts. So although we are clearly in a time of crisis, this is also a time to practice the skills that we will need to develop as a community for the even more disruptive times ahead. And so, with some degree of spaciousness and calm, I ask that we think big picture and long term as we set up new systems of communications, organizing and decision making.
As far as we know, Cortes Island remains Covid-19 free. However, in order to protect each other, and indeed our most vulnerable, I ask that each of you act as if you have
Covid-19 and take every reasonable precaution to not spread it to others.
As a species, we have overstepped are welcome on this planet, and we have failed to rain ourselves in. The message could not be clearer. Slow down. Be still. Travel less. Buy less disposable crap made on the other side of the world. Source locally. Go into nature. Go into your garden. Spend time with loved ones. Be still. Take a time out. Cover your mouth but not your ears. Be still. Listen.
As your life and our systems change in ways that we did not ask for, I invite you to notice the opportunities that this situation presents. How can you, and how can we, use this extraordinary time to re-evaluate our priorities and re-design our systems? How can we come through this in a way that will leave us more whole and our planet less tapped? And remember that we are among the most privileged. Even those of you who find yourself out of work still live in a welfare state with a medical system. And we all share this remarkable community where people consistently think beyond themselves to the well-being of the whole.
I am asking representatives from the following businesses and groups to join me tomorrow, Wednesday and as regularly thereafter as needed. (To those groups who I have not yet reached, if I have not been in touch with you by the end of today, please reach out to me.)
Ambulance, Clinic, Health Association, Radio, Yacht Clubs, Harbour Authority, Cortes Vacation Rentals, the 4 stores, Hollyhock, Klahoose, Emergency Social Services, the Motel, Island Sea Farms, Food Bank, Economic Development, Linnaea, Manson’s and Gorge Halls, Cortes Seniors, Ferry Committee, Climate Hope and the Citizens Assembly research group.
With all my heart, to all of you.
Reliable and Up-to-date websites:
• Island Health: https://www.islandhealth.ca/learn-about-health/diseases-conditions/novelcoronavirusinformation
• Outbreak update: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-
• BC Centre of Disease Control - Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): http://www.bccdc.ca/healthinfo/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-(novel)
• First Nations Health Authority has information for its audiences here: https://www.fnha.ca/about/news-and-events/news/information-on-novel-coronavirus
• National coronavirus info line 1-833-784-4397