Tlellagraph: Reading up for a Tlell of a vote, and learning a new First Aid

By Janet Rigg

This writer apologizes. I let down the people of Tlell, perhaps the whole island, in not reporting the outcome of the fire service referendum in a timely manner. I have my reasons for this, which I will explain.

Here is the short report — the referendum passed, 60 “Yes” votes to 34 “No,” as the real journalist of this paper has reported already. For my part, I said in my previous column that I would vote Yes. Yet I was not the vote that brought an odd 59 to a lovely even 60. In fact, I didn’t vote at all.

Now that your shock has subsided, let me explain. In my opinion, there is little worse than an ill-informed and unquestioned opinion. On the morning of Nov. 11, I was rushing about, packing for a work trip across the country.

“I’m going to vote, on my way to the airport,” I assured my husband. In that moment I assumed two things: 1) that there need be only one vote per property-owning household, and 2) that this time, unlike every other time I’ve ever flown anywhere, I wouldn’t be running out the door at the very last minute. I was wrong on both accounts.

My husband loves to question, and suddenly he was asking me questions about the voting process, assuming, as many would, that I’d done extensive research before reporting so confidently about how I was going to vote. “Can we both vote?” “Do renters get to vote?” I didn’t know, so he found out.

“People on the Tlell Community Facebook page say renters can vote. How fair is it that our taxes are going to go up over $300 a year, because someone who doesn’t pay taxes votes ‘yes’?” I hadn’t actually done the calculation of what we would pay.

And finally, “Why can’t it be a flat fee for every property? Saving a building or saving a life is the same, no matter what property taxes we pay.” Okay, I’m paraphrasing there — creative licence. He didn’t exactly word it that way.

Me being me, I’m a lousy debater, especially when I’m trying to pack. I started to doubt my publicly announced decision. I worried that I had unduly influenced others who maybe didn’t read the flyer that was delivered (which was the extent of my research on the issue). I even considered going to vote No, just to balance out any sway I may have had, because now I simply couldn’t decide. I figured if I had influenced anyone to vote Yes, but then voted No, I’d cancel out my effect.

Of course, in the end I was late, and didn’t vote at all. My husband did, and I don’t know how he voted. I’m happy the referendum was passed, but it certainly raises the issue of how and what we write about, and the influence that carries. We all saw what happened south of the border. Thankfully, a well-funded fire department is the result of this vote, and sizeable tax increase or not, I’m grateful those first responders get all the training and equipment they need.

Now I know you’re all dying to know what work trip I was going on that I would so easily shirk my civic responsibility. I was sent to Halifax to train to become an instructor for Mental Health First Aid. Halifax is pretty far, but the funding deadlines meant we had to go all that way and eat lobster while we trained. I attended with Emma Millson-Taylor, a lovely and talented public health nurse working in Masset, and also the driving force behind all our volunteers for the music festival. The lobster dinner prepared by her uncle was delicious.

What is Mental Health First Aid? It is an evidence-based, two-day course designed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It’s purpose is to give community members (yes, you) the tools to detect early signs of mental illness, teach you how to respond in a mental health crisis situation, and familiarize yourself with appropriate professional and personal supports you can then offer the person in distress.

Both Emma and I survived the intense four-day training and are now provisionally certified to deliver the course to Haida Gwaii. We will be delivering it at least three times a year around the island communities. We are hoping Gwaii Trust will support us in these efforts, along with the support of both our agencies; Northern Health and the Skidegate Health Centre. Yes, I just used my writing influence to put public pressure on Gwaii Trust and our employers. Have I learnt nothing?

If you’d like to know more about my inability to take much of firm stand on anything, or about having the Mental Health First Aid course come to your community or organization, email me at sewnart@haidagwaii.net. Maybe if Gwaii Trust won’t pony up, we’ll add the cost of the course to your taxes 😉 We all need skilled first responders!

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