Can you help us Dr. Henry, please?

Dear Dr. Henry,

I’m hoping that this note will provide you with some insights into the lives of the people who live in that northwest corner of Surrey which the leaked documents reveal has the lowest vaccination rates and the above 20% positivity rate for the Covid-19 virus.

You must know that that same corner of Surrey is consistently highlighted in reports on poverty as having some of the highest childhood poverty rates in B.C.

If you live in this corner of Surrey, you’re likely to be an immigrant who speaks many languages except English. You are likely to work at least two jobs, neither of which provide you with paid sick leave. When you’ve had Covid-like symptoms, you weigh the definite outcome of hunger and eviction against the possibility of having Covid. If you don’t go in to work, you don’t get paid, and if you don’t get paid, your family doesn’t eat because the little money you do have must go to rent.

Your family is unlikely to own a car, so even if you wanted to get tested, you’d have to find a way to use the bus that only runs once every hour in your neighbourhood. There is an additional problem in that Translink warns you shouldn’t be on a bus if you’re sick.

No description available.

You can’t afford a taxi.

So, when you’re sick, you just stay home and hope to feel better in a day or so.

You were a business owner in your country of origin. Or a professional with a good middle-class lifestyle. But here, you’re an ‘essential worker’ whose work keeps the economy going but is not important enough to get you paid on the days you’re off sick.

When you stay home sick, you cannot isolate yourself from other family members because there are nine of you sharing a two-bedroom basement suite. You do your best, but it’s inevitable that other family members get sick as well.

Your children attend schools in Surrey. You keep getting notifications about exposures in those schools. They have a note at the top telling you in your first language to get the notice translated, but you don’t have time. Your translators, your children, have often gone to bed by the time you get home from work, and you’re gone to work before they wake up to go to school.

So, Dr. Henry, how do you propose to provide this community with the resources they need?

If Public Health could keep in mind the daily reality of people living in this corner of Surrey, wouldn’t there be a completely different approach, aligned with community characteristics, not just statistics?

People who live in the northwest corner of Surrey are more than the numbers in those leaked documents. They are B.C. citizens who are doing their best to survive in a pandemic despite having far fewer resources than most of us do.

You have the power to help them.

Please do.


A Surrey Teacher

The children that Christy Clark forgot

broken ministry cartoon
Image courtesy Raeside

I’m thinking of the students who wish school was open today. The  ones whose only meal each day is the one they get through a school meal program.

I’m thinking of the one in five B.C. children living in poverty who Santa Claus will forget. The ones for whom Friday will be just another hungry day in one of the most affluent places on earth.

I’m thinking of the mother who works at least two jobs and yet still can’t provide more than the bare necessities for her children.

I’m thinking all this while a vivid childhood memory whirls in my head of my mother singing Nat King Cole’s The Little Boy that Santa Claus forgot:

He’s the little boy that Santa Claus forgot

And goodness knows, he didn’t want a lot

He sent a note to Santa

For some soldiers and a drum

It broke his little heart

When he found Santa hadn’t come

In the street, he envies all those lucky boys

Then wanders home to last year’s broken toys

I’m so sorry for that laddie, he hasn’t got a daddy

The little boy that Santa Claus forgot

Premier Christy Clark is probably hoping that we have forgotten about her broken promises.  She won’t want us to remember what she said about putting “families first” in her last election campaign. Or how she offered parents $40 a day while she kept their children out of school in her attempt to get teachers to back down in their fight for more educational support for children.

What she fails to realize is that for thousands of children in this province, school is much more than a place they go to learn an approved curriculum.

They are the students who come early and leave late each day because school is where the peace and quiet is.

The students who count 24 hours between meals.

The students who teachers have in mind for every Adopt-a-School request for funds.

The students who are expert couch surfers, relying on the compassion of the parents of their school friends.

They certainly can’t rely on the compassion of a premier who spends thousands of dollars to take her son on a trip to the other side of the world so that he can learn empathy.

If we accept the view of honorary Canadian citizen, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who said that “there could be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”, then what are we to say about the soul of the province of British Columbia  when news about yet another child dying while in the custody of the Ministry of Children and Families elicits nothing more than a shrug from the government?

During this Christmas season, when the birth of a child is celebrated with much largesse, I think about the children this government has conveniently forgotten.  

When the  BC Liberals, in their bid for re-election in 2017, spin all the facts of their malfeasance, when they whitewash the 15 years of cuts they have made to services for children,  I hope that voters will remember the children that Christy Clark forgot.