The third Virtual Cortes Community Conference

If nothing else, the third Virtual Cortes Community Conference may be remembered for its bloopers. The first 23 minutes were not broadcast over the radio because of an unexpected technical difficulty. Consequently, I used a recording that was never intended to be made public.

Community Updates

Regional Director Noba Anderson started the meeting with a series of updates. 

  • The Cortes Health Centre is still consulting with patients over the phone, or by video chat. 
  • Charmaine Enns, the Medical Health Officer for North Island, notified Director Anderson that anybody who has a worsening cough or significant symptoms in a rural or remote community now qualifies for COVID 19 testing. They are considering rolling out community wide testing in remote areas. Is this something Cortes should be seeking?
  • The Cortes Community Health Association (CCHA) and Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA) are still discussing how they can cash in on ‘SRD Delivers’. This is a special program to fund assistance “with grocery shopping, the delivery of food, prescriptions and other essentials for the benefit of the elderly (65+) and other vulnerable persons who must self-isolate in accordance with Public Health Orders.” (The day after this meeting, Emergency Response Coordinator Shaun Koopman wrote, “To date the SRD has received applications from Read Island, Campbell River and Tahsis.”)
  • Mary Lavelle, the manager of Mansons Hall, wants to know if the community thought it would be valuable to have a systems navigator to assist people as they wade through the various grants, assistance programs etc. that are now available.
  • The Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) has taken over the Needs and Offers platform, which Director Anderson describes as more interactive than what we have seen up until now. 

Cortes Island’s Summer Rentals

Summer is fast approaching and many of Cortes Island’s winter tenants are facing their annual evictions. 

“My understanding is that the tenancy act changed a couple of years ago and no longer allows people to have multi-month tenancies. It is no longer permissible for an owner to have a tenant occupy for a number of months, come back for a couple of months and then rent their house out again – yet a lot of people still do this on Cortes,” said Director Anderson.

Supplemental: What About Family?

Bertha Jeffery suggested this may still be permissible if  the owner, or a close family member, occupies the house.

The Residential Tenancy Act, amended February 18, 2020 defines this as a “fixed term tenancy” and states (13.1) “the circumstances in which a landlord may include in a fixed term tenancy agreement a requirement that the tenant vacate a rental unit at the end of the term are that:

  • (a) the landlord is an individual, and
  • (b) that landlord, or a close family member of that landlord, intends in good faith at the time of entering into the tenancy agreement to occupy the rental unit at the end of the term.”

How COVID 19 Changes The Situation

Director Anderson said, “The question I do not have a clear answer to is about multi-month leases, typically from September to June 1st or whatever it is. I do not think this is legal of itself, but the landlord wouldn’t be ending tenancy due to COVID, it was a prearranged arrangement. So could you still be asked to leave on June 1st?”

The B.C. Residential Tenancy Act has been amended during the Current state of emergencies so that landlords cannot evict their tenants for:

  • “Unpaid rent or utilities”
  • “Cause”
  • “Landlord or purchaser use”
  • “End of employment as a caretaker”
  • “End of employment if the rental unit is being rented as a condition of employment”
  • “Demolition, renovation, and conversion of a rental unit (or closure of a manufactured home park)”
  • “Failure to qualify for a rental unit in subsidized housing”
  • Landlords who are selling their home should talk to their realtor or legal counsel about what impact, if any, being unable to achieve vacant possession of the property may have on their sale.”

Nor can landlords raise the rent until the state of emergency is over

Landlords can apply to end a tenancy if they can show their tenant engaged in illegal activity, or “seriously jeopardized the health or safety or a lawful right or interest of the landlord or another occupant.”

A notice given before March 30, 2020 is a valid notice and statutory timelines are in effect. If you fail to dispute the notice within the appropriate timeline, you will be deemed to have accepted that the tenancy is ended, and you may be evicted when the state of emergency is over.” 

Breakout Groups

Key Question: “In the face of potentially long-term social distancing orders, how can we seed social wellbeing both individually and collectively?”

“There are deep concerns for children and their social well being if there is an extension of this isolation … One of the suggestions that we discussed quite a bit was the idea of podding with other families. Two or three families with similar values might group together and clearly identify the protocols they would all adhere to. This would allow for some socializing between children and also some support for parents,” said Christine Robinson

Director Anderson added, “The hardest part for me, is having [my three-year-old daughter] Xyla be around people she loves and cannot touch. That is weird and I would rather have a small group of really normal than a large group of weird.” 

“Many of us have reached the limits of our tolerance of self isolation and another month sounds like an eternity,” said Andy Vine.

“We really all felt the need to see people and be with people. Some were being very creative about taking a picnic down to the beach and sitting at a distance, but consuming their picnic in the company of others …. I think the consensus was not letting that slip into letting our guard down. There has to be a balance in finding ways to be distant in the company of other people. The concept of play came up as very important … maybe there is a safe way to organize some games like bocce,” said Bernice McGowan.

Yasmin suggested “people come together in a field, probably not with children, and throw around ideas. Have an ideas cafe …”

“What’s to stop busking from happening at the Co-op, there is something uplifting about live music,” asked Robinson.

“I think creativity is in good supply around here,” observed Vine.

Who Is The We?

Many of the comments were framed using words like “us” and “we.”

“So who is the we?” asked Anderson. “Is this some formal society? Is this whoever shows up? Is there a arsty collective? What do we do from here folks?”

Someone responded, “For me, it is a bit early [to ask that]. I’d like more time to ruminate … I need to be immersed in something for a little while before my creative juices start to flow.” ”

Moving Forward

Vine offered to help organize a Bocci tournament, if someone will help.

Hollyhock, the school field, and the field at Gorge Harbour and the school house gallery grounds were all suggested as gathering places.

“What’s difficult is it cannot be close to a playground because if there are children there they will gravitate to it,” said Robinson.

A special ZOOM meeting on the social distancing question will be held on Monday at 1 PM.

Cortes Island’s next virtual Community Conference will be next Tuesday. Stay tuned to the Tideline, as there is some question as to whether it should start at 4:30, or 5:30.

Top photo credit: Bocce Ball by George Chase via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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