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EDITORIAL: Return to pre-COVID-19 world not enjoyable for everyone

As more people get their second COVID-19 vaccination dose, life is returning to some form of normal. While the decision by the Alberta government and province’s municipalities to remove mask bylaws and loosen public health restrictions has been
July 15, 2021
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne

As more people get their second COVID-19 vaccination dose, life is returning to some form of normal.

While the decision by the Alberta government and province’s municipalities to remove mask bylaws and loosen public health restrictions has been shortsighted and overly eager, the move was inevitable as many people are anxious to return to the pre-COVID-19 world.

But for many, is a return to pre-COVID-19 something to be excited for?

The pandemic highlighted the struggles and precarious situation many in the country, province and Bow Valley face on a daily basis. Food insecurity, housing dilemmas and reliable paying work are only a few of the issues faced by residents that were only exacerbated in the past 18 months.

From some of the most scenic sights in North America to the close knit feel of the community, the Bow Valley can be proud of its accomplishments.

While these should be highlighted and praised, there can always be more work completed in improving the lives of residents.

Recent results by community groups are showing there’s a need for more daily stability for both temporary and permanent residents.

The Bow Valley Food Alliance released two new research reports earlier this month on food strengths and challenges in the Town of Canmore and the MD of Bighorn. They highlighted the reality some residents face in having the difficult decision of choosing between food and housing.

Canmore council heard results on July 6 from its pilot emergency shelter program that ran from February and April. It showed an invaluable need in the community and put a bigger spotlight on the issue of hidden homelessness many smaller municipalities face.

The program will no doubt, and rightfully, continue after a total of 104 nights of shelter were provided with the pilot largely relying on word of mouth. Most importantly, it helped provide two people with more permanent housing to remain in the community.

The 2020 Canmore/Banff rural housing and service needs estimation report was presented to Canmore council at its June committee of the whole meeting, with 112 surveys being completed. Of those, 59 people reported experiencing either homelessness or housing insecurity. They also informed the survey showed an extra 20 dependents and 66 adults were sharing their living condition.

Less than a month ago, Canmore Community Housing added a further 10 much needed affordable homes in the community in the Peaks of Grassi on Lawrence Grassi Ridge. While it’s only baby steps toward helping everyone on the wait list, for any one of those families receiving a set of keys to a new home, it makes an impact.

The Banff Food and Friends program also put out a call for fundraising help after its launch this past spring had 40 to 50 people the first night, growing to a peak of 180.

In only a few shorts months, the program showed the need in the community for a weekly meal where people are able to pay what they can.

The tourists are returning, businesses are reopened and people are back to work – it’s still a daily struggle for many in the valley.

None of these issues are new to the region, nor any other community in the country. But in a race to return to the pre-COVID-19 normal, it’s important to remember there was more work to be done and not everyone enjoyed comfortable lives.

It can be easy to enjoy the present and put the past in the rearview mirror, but it’s no time for the Bow Valley community to forget those past struggles.

Throughout the Bow Valley, there’s a strong sense of connection and helping one another out in their time of need.

As we celebrate and enjoy the loosening of public health restrictions and see friends we haven’t for months, it’s essential to remember not everyone is as fortunate.

Now, more than ever, is a time to keep working toward a better community.