fourth Cortes Virtual Conference

The Fourth Cortes Virtual Conference

The main topics at the fourth Cortes Virtual Conference were housing and employing people on priority community initiatives. The meeting started fourteen minutes late, but (thanks to Ayton Novak) with a polish that was not present in previous meetings. The proceedings started with a series of community updates.

Food Security

Mary Lavelle gave the report for the Cortes Food Bank and Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA). While a number of people expressed concern for the future, the food bank has raised $6,000 and a few thousand more is promised.  Accounts have been opened up at the Gorge Store and Cortes Market. Food Bank clients will be given boxes of food and vouchers to purchase food. (When the season opens, clients will also be given vouchers to purchase produce.) Mansons Friday Market may open up on May 1, with only a few people being allowed access at a time.

At this point, the SCCA does not see the need to hire a driver to deliver groceries. So they have not applied for funding under the SRD Delivers Program. 

Systems Navigation: First Case – Tourism

Should we hire someone to help people wade through all the government assistance programs that are being offered due to COVID 19? 

While the SCCA is looking into the prospects for individuals, the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) is seeing what can be done for companies. 

“It is pretty complex and changing rapidly. Our conclusion was to connect Cortes folks with off-island experts who are focusing on that, said Adam McKenty, President of CCEDA. “We had our first call, with Calum Matthews from Tourism Vancouver Island, today. They started a cultural resiliency program to help people make sense of and survive the current situation.”

As there are no tourists coming to Cortes, this sector is suffering. 

Vancouver Island Tourism is offering businesses, directly or indirectly involved with tourism, help navigating through the available assistance programs. This includes restaurants, arts and crafts etc. Businesses that register with them can receive one-on-one system navigations help, legal assistance and business advice. 

“I will transcribe the information from that call and likely release it through our newsletter and a Tideline post as well,” said  McKenty. 

Other CCEDA Projects

CCEDA is asking for input as to what they can do to help local businesses, whether it be online meetings or assistance getting government funding, or whatever. Contact them at

They are also looking into ideas like:

“We are going to be running series, which is connected to the community investment co-op because in order for that to function there needs to be business plans, business ideas and entrepreneurs for investment to be received by. It is a good time, if you are socially distanced and your employment has shrunk, to bring your business ideas out and start thinking about them, because we will be starting a series of business training events,” said McKenty. 

Director’s Updates 

Director Anderson added, “I really believe that … if we as a community can come up with clear common goals, the resources will flow to support that.” 

She is also having discussions with the non-profit sector and how to do grants-in-aid in a more democratic way. 

Medical Testing Update 

The Medical clinic informed her that anyone who has any COVID like symptoms – respiratory difficulty, a worsening cough etc – is now eligible for a swab. (Editors note for the curious: this also means the number of swabs being carried off island will increase, even if every swab turns out to negative.)

“They are asking that people phone ahead because there is time sensitivity as to when they get the swab and when they send it in.”

Update on the Well Being Meeting 

This idea of getting together socially, while maintaining the recommended social distance, was discussed at the last community conference.  A small group who wanted to continue that discussion met on Monday, April 21st. There were several good ideas, but at this point they decided to support people in their own personal well being for the next few weeks and then see where we are at in terms of social distancing orders. The group’s next step is to invite professionals who support well-being in the physical, spiritual or energetic realms to a group conference on April 24th. 

“Hopefully we will record part of that discussion and have it online and on the radio.”

Later in the meeting, Director Anderson asked if there was a way to hold Lip Syncs and Lovefests in a socially distant manner? 

Update Re Housing

Director Anderson started the discussion about vacation rentals with a recording from a conversation with Sarah from the Regional Tenancy Branch (28:15 to 35:41 in the podcast above). Landlords can rent their units out during the winter and also use them as vacation rentals during the summer, if the landlord and winter tenant sign an RTB1 form. Either the landlord, or a relative of his/her’s must then occupy the unit for an unspecified length of time. 

There can be no evictions during the COVID crises.  

For more information phone the BC Residential Tenancy Line (1-800-665- 8779).

Households that have lost 25% or more of their monthly income are also eligible for the BC monthly rental supplement (For more information, phone 1-877- 757-2577).

Re vacant homes: are these available for renting? Some summer residents are really hoping they can return this year. Some students returning home have made arrangements to quarantine for a couple of weeks in currently unoccupied houses before seeing their parents.  

“If you have left your home for it to be a vacation rental and that is not going to happen, it is valid to ask if that could be housing for otherwise displaced people and I do not yet have a mechanism to do that matching,” said Director Anderson.

Is this something for the future needs and offers platform?

Employment & Volunteering For The Community

A number of people who worked in the shellfish, tourism ad other sectors are currently unemployed – could they be put to work for the community? There have been a number of community projects talked about in the past, but not pursued because of a shortage of labourers during the summer. The conversation followed two tracks: volunteering and employment. 

  • Is there a list of priorities? 
  • Do we need a coordinator? 
  • How do we put this out to the larger community? 
  • Can we involve teens? 

Mary Lavelle said there is a definite need for volunteers at Mansons Hall. They could deep clean the hall, or clean up the garden.

“We’ve never had the funds or the time to do that. I could definitely come up with a few projects, if people wanted to do things.”  

She will put together a list of projects.

Someone from Gorge Hall said their water system needs to be shocked.

Director Anderson mentioned a long term dream of adding on to the medical clinic, “If there was a fund raising capacity and a labour force” maybe it is time.  

“CCEDA is working to find funding for a food security coordinator and part of that role would probably be helping to match people with community gardens, for growing their own food … or help harvest food that otherwise goes to waste,” said McKenty. “Related to that, if we could find a way to have physically distanced work bees …” 

CCEDA is planning to have a work bee on their property next to the hall. 

Top photo credit: Looking across Sutil Channel to Marina and Cortes Islands by Dale SImonson via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License) 

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