Sonia Furstenau column: Kindness, compassion, empathy essential during crisis

It is heartening to see the good work of governments at all levels.

By Sonia Furstenau

Even though we’ve been aware that COVID-19 would spread to communities across the country, and this would mean isolation and appointment cancellations, it was still a shock to see all the business and institutional closures these past few days. Dr. Bonnie Henry and her staff, along with the Minister of Health Adrian Dix, have been exemplary in their handling of this crisis. Our trust in Dr. Henry’s ability to manage the enormous task of weighing options and deciding on the best path for all British Columbians has made the shock of it all more easy to bear. For up to date and accurate information about COVID-19, please visit http://covid-19.bccdc.ca.

Our constituency office is closed to walk-in traffic, but staff will be available by email (Sonia.Furstenau.MLA@leg.bc.ca) and by phone (250-715-2792) to provide information, guidance, and do casework for constituents.

I am very concerned for and empathize with constituents whose health is at risk and for those whose income or business is affected by all the closures. I am working hard as your MLA to advocate for solutions that meet your needs, especially for those hit hardest by this crisis. It is reassuring and encouraging to see so many examples of community resiliency, where residents are working hard to support their neighbours. Social media pages set up specifically to help those who are unable to get groceries or medications, and people isolating themselves at home to protect friends and community members from any potential harm. Many businesses, too, are playing their part in meeting the needs of those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and supporting social distancing.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Nick Wignall wrote about how to manage our anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic. He said one of the best ways to counteract the feeling of helplessness is to be helpful to other people. Cowichan has proven time and again that when there is a crisis, we step up to help. I already see this happening across the region, and I strongly encourage people to continue to look out for family, friends, and neighbours as we weather the coming weeks and months.

It is heartening to see the good work of governments at all levels. The announcements of financial support from the federal government are a good step in providing some relief and certainty for people and businesses that are already feeling significant financial impacts. Federal support programs include a boost to the Canada Child Benefit, an Emergency Care Benefit and an Emergency Support Benefit for people who do not qualify for Employment Insurance. The federal government has also announced a six-month interest-free reprieve on student loans and an extension to June 1 for the tax filing deadline. There is also an Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities.

More information about all of the initiatives of the federal government can be found here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html

We will have more to share soon about how the provincial government is going to support British Columbians, and my colleague Adam Olsen and I will continue to work on behalf of our constituents and all British Columbians to bring forward ideas, policies, and best practices to government, while also playing our important role as an opposition party to ensure transparency and accountability.

We are in unprecedented times, and we are all going to face challenges over the weeks and months ahead. It is essential that our path through this crisis and beyond is one that is marked by kindness, compassion, and empathy.

Sonia Furstenau is the MLA for the Cowichan Valley.

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