The Southern Gulf Islands of Galiano, Mayne, North and South Pender Islands, Saturna, Piers and associated islands make up an unincorporated rural Electoral Area under the jurisdiction of the Capital Regional District (CRD). The CRD’s Emergency Response to Covid-19 included opening Emergency Operation Centres (EOC) across the region, including EOCs specifically for the Southern Gulf Islands. Through the SGI Emergency Program Coordinator, the EOCs have been liaising with community groups and stakeholders on a regular basis to meet the emergency needs of the islands as well as to identify secondary impacts and address them.
Governance for the delivery of essential services and social supports on the islands is provided for by not only the CRD, but also by other government agencies (like Islands Trust), as well as a patchwork of not-for-profit societies, local businesses and volunteer organizations. The Covid 19 situation has brought to light many areas where the Southern Gulf Islands can improve its capacity for community resilience, and we are learning, building stronger connections, and preparing to be more resilient in the future.
In addition to continuing to provide essential community services including water, sewer and emergency response, the CRD has a Community Economic Sustainability Commission (CESC) which works with community partners such as the Southern Gulf Islands Community Resource Centre (CRC). In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the CRD has contracted with the CRC to provide community level support throughout the Southern Gulf Islands. The CRC and many Gulf Island organizations are assisting the community by offering Covid-19 helplines,delivering meals to isolated seniors, building volunteer capacity, and planning to ensure future food and water supply.
Communities of the Southern Gulf Islands are facing economic hardships as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that were not foreseen or planned for. Many SGI businesses are dependent on tourism and were hit especially hard by the shut-down, which happened right at the end of the slow season and before the anticipated first boost of revenue associated with spring break visitors. Independently owned businesses in the SGI are especially vulnerable without buffers to get them through this time. Non-profit societies provide many social services for island communities, but have had to cancel annual fundraising events that they rely on for program funding.
The CRD Southern Gulf Island Community Economic Sustainability Commission and the SGI Community Resource Center have developed an SGI Economic Recovery and Resiliency framework and are coordinating regional planning to support island communities. A first priority will be engaging the non-profit and business community in an organized effort for economic response and recovery in a way that is safe and responsible. This involves direct consultation with a cross section of sectors, including: tourism, the service Industry, service organizations and non-profits, trades & manufacturing/software/technology, food & agriculture, personal services, health & wellness, and emergency services. Each of these industries is being directed by the Public Health Office to follow guidelines and protocols for re-opening.
In addition to sector consultations, the SGI Economic Recovery and Resiliency framework includes action to address community needs in the areas of transportation, connectivity and affordable housing-- with the recognition that the pandemic heightens the importance of these ongoing CESC initiatives.
Through this organized collaboration community dialogue can be coordinated so service providers can support the community’s safety, and the community can support the businesses and service providers it depends on. This initiative gives us an opportunity for collective planning and to develop a vision and strategies for long-term community resiliency-building.
"A first priority will be engaging the non-profit and business community in an organized effort for economic response and recovery in a way that is safe and responsible."