Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith says a joint proclamation by the three Peninsula mayors is a way of saying thank you to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and frontline workers.
Mayor Geoff Orr of North Saanich and Mayor Ryan Windsor of Central Saanich have joined McNeil-Smith in declaring June 29 through July 5 as Dr. Bonnie Henry and Frontline Workers Appreciation Week on the Saanich Peninsula.
“As you know, the idea and request for the proclamation came from [Sidney Town Crier] Kenny Podmore,” said McNeil-Smith. “Kenny has a huge heart for community spirit and a positive community spirit has helped us all through these challenges times. And given how connected we are on the Peninsula, the three mayors are pleased to do this proclamation together.”
McNeil-Smith said it is the sense of community that has kept people together and strong during the pandemic.
“Everybody should take great pride in flattening the curve. We want to thank Dr. Bonnie Henry for her great leadership and wisdom, her professional experience in public health and science. Equally important, she exemplifies her message to be kind, be calm and be safe.”
McNeil-Smith said the pandemic has become larger and is lasting longer than many could have imagined. “And her steadfast reassurance has been vital as we work through this together,” he said.
McNeil-Smith said he followed a lot of Henry’s daily press conferences during the height of the pandemic. “And her calm, when giving briefings and answering countless questions, day in and day out, helped foster a positive spirit and motivated us to make the difficult sacrifices that we have made as individuals, families, businesses and community organizations.”
The socio-economic effects of the pandemic on British Columbia and its citizens have been significant, said McNeil-Smith. “An enormous responsibility fell on Dr. Henry’s shoulders as the chief public health officer. It certainly fell on the provincial government as well … and kudos to the provincial government for allowing Dr. Henry to provide the guidance, to use her professional experience in public health and epidemiological science in order to give us the guidance that we had to take. “
Henry’s legacy lies not merely in her professional expertise and experience, but also her personified leadership and message. “It is what led us to action and action was required on part of each and every one of us in the province.”
It is not clear how many communities have made such proclamations, but McNeil-Smith notes that Canada Day falls within the proclaimed week, a deliberate choice.
“We wanted to celebrate our positive spirit during Canada Day,” he said in pointing to the upcoming virtual celebrations. “And yes, an invitation has been extended to Dr. Henry to do a brief walk-through with some us in the community. It won’t be publicized because we don’t want to encourage a crowd. But we also appreciate that she receives a large number of invitations from people who want to say thank-you.”
McNeil-Smith also notes the proclamation goes beyond Dr. Bonnie Henry. “The hearts that we put out everywhere in our community show our gratitude and say thank you to the health professionals, the first responders, the essential service workers, all of whom were on the front line during the most challenging period of the pandemic,” he said. “This proclamation says thank you again.”
A formal declaration ceremony took place on June 18 in front of Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre with Podmore making the declaration. McNeil-Smith, Orr and local MLA Adam Olsen joined Podmore, each wearing a T-shirt paying tribute to Henry and frontline workers. All proceeds raised through the sales of the T-shirts featuring Henry’s public appeal to ‘Be Kind Be Calm Be Safe’ and a red heart paying tribute to frontline workers is going towards Beacon Community Services, specifically its Vulnerable Seniors Program supporting vulnerable and often forgotten seniors in the region, who live alone and who are fearful of leaving their houses during the pandemic.
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