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General News · 31st March 2020
Graham Blake
I find I must echo many of the concerns expressed so well by Genoa in an earlier post. I submit here a copy of a letter I sent to Director Anderson reflecting my concerns.
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I am uncomfortable with what I see as overreach in the messaging that came out of the meetings of "the consulted Cortes community leadership". With all due respect, it does not matter what "clear direction about what to tell people traveling on and off island" you received. This is not an official body and it is not authorized to speak on behalf of the community nor issue dicta with respect to what is or is not permissible activity carried out by citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am especially concerned with where this messaging diverges from the recommendations of the Provincial government and Provincial Health authorities. As an elected official you are in a position where you have the power to irresponsibly conflate and confuse official guidelines with the opinions of a subset of Cortes citizens. I would strongly encourage you to avoid putting yourself in this position.

Currently BC has not even issued blanket restrictions against non-essential services, yet the messaging from "the consulted Cortes community leadership", with its presumed authority (along with you in your official capacity), has asserted that even trades people engaged in services deemed essential by the Provincial government should not travel to Cortes. This is blatant overreach by a non-authority that serves only to confuse matters at a time when clarity is vital. This implies that official guidelines and directives are open to interpretation. Instead of everyone interpreting activities by a common set of rules, different people will have different interpretations of different rules. This will expose people within the community to fear, mistrust, and hostility for lawfully abiding by Provincial guidelines while "disobeying" this so-called "consulted Cortes community leadership". I consider this to be a toxic and unacceptable outcome. At a time when we should be actively working to trust each other to be acting in good faith, this will encourage people to suspect each other of acting in bad faith for the simple crime of following the guidelines of Provincial authorities. I can not express strongly enough how important it is that we avoid putting ourselves in that position.

I strongly encourage any messaging emerging from these community consultations to align with the current Provincial guidelines and avoid any appearance of assuming an authority over activities that we simply do not possess. By all means all non-essential travel to Cortes should be discouraged. All non-essential travel in all of BC should be discouraged, and is already discouraged. However, it is not in our authority to dictate what is and what is not essential travel. Creating the false appearance that it is within our authority to dictate what is essential, and then to use this make-believe authority to imply that even officially designated essential services are forbidden on Cortes is profoundly irresponsible. Recommend what you will, but be clear about which recommendations are without the force of authority and steer clear of trying to forbid services that are officially declared to be essential.

You should already be familiar with the Provincial list of essential services, but I would strongly encourage everyone who wishes to be involved in messaging on this issue to become familiar with it.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/essential-services-covid-19

This list of essential services includes:

- Plumbers
- Electricians
- Exterminators
- Building systems maintenance and repair technicians
- Other service providers who provide services that are necessary to
maintaining the safety, sanitation and daily essential operation of
residences and commercial buildings
- Construction work, in accordance with PHO direction, including:
• Construction firms
• Skilled trades and professionals
• Construction and light industrial machinery
• Equipment rental

I recognize that Cortes has unique challenges and that the precautionary principle should apply. However, it is a disservice to people to create conflicting messages with the Provincial authorities when it comes to issuing guidelines around what constitutes essential services and what should or should not be deemed permissible.

Please take this message to be my official contribution to the community consultation.

Regards,
Graham Blake