Reading recent emails, monitoring online discussions throughout last year from folks on opposite sides of local debates, and in watching the shocking events in the United States, I feel compelled to reach out to my fellow citizens.
We are witnessing, south of the border, a nation deeply divided. But I see the similar seeds of polarization germinating here at home. Most use social media as a force for good, but online commenting has also emboldened people to speak out and call out, often in harmful ways.
And with the increased stress for many due to COVID-19, we are seeing social media incivility perhaps as a reflection of this greater anxiety or a broader trend.
I want to thank those citizens who amplify the good in our community and the accomplishments of others. This is a community that cares. People have donated generously to our non-profits this year, a beautiful trail was constructed in record time to honour a cherished local, Bridge to Housing was created in 35 days last spring to temporarily house homeless folks, the BAG held Sunday concerts, teachers kept teaching, health professionals kept caring, front line workers showed up to keep us going. There are so many stories big and small, historic and present-day, that should be shared.
Admittedly, we have challenges to address as a community — jobs, housing, climate, growth and community building. These are all big topics with complex solutions that will need our best thinking.
My hope for 2021 is that we can each think about our own role in community building. How do we continue working together to make good things happen? How do we build a community that feels safe, welcoming, and celebrates the ingenuity and hard work of the people that call Squamish home? How do we continue to rebuild and re-imagine our relationship with Squamish Nation? How do we lift all people up, and open our eyes and ears to eliminate the prejudice that continues to exist? Can we become a community where diverse opinions are respected and embraced, where we debate with an open mind, and to learn about other points of view even if we don’t agree? The choice is ours, are we as individuals helping to build community, or tear it apart with our words and actions?
At the District, we are also seeking ways to build a stronger community.
In partnership with Squamish Nation and many non-profits, one project underway seeks to learn about the experiences of residents through the pandemic to inspire our collective next steps towards a stronger community. In this anonymous space, without fear of judgment or comment, you can share an experience you’ve had during the pandemic. We want to hear from people with different backgrounds and different stories. I invite you to learn more and submit an experience at YourStorySquamish.ca. Perhaps this will be your first contribution to community building in 2021.
Our differences, experiences and viewpoints can strengthen us if we work together. Squamish, your council and I look forward to listening, learning and working with you this year.
Mayor Karen Elliott