Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice

Gabriola Island

Just east of Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, Gabriola is blessed with one of the best climates in Canada, diverse beaches, nature parks, stunning ocean views, and incredible sunsets, and is home to 4,200 residents, which almost doubles in summer. Known as the “Isle of Arts,” Gabriola Island is home to dozens of world-renowned and emerging artists. On Thanksgiving weekend, artisans open their studios for the Studio Tour, recognized as one of the best in Canada. Celebrations of music, dance, and farmers' markets occur throughout the year. In addition to the arts community, there are many home-based businesses. The rural setting fosters a great community spirit with an exceptional degree of volunteerism. 

In 2011, Gabriola proudly opened its Community Health Centre, which was primarily funded and built by a cadre 150 volunteers. The Gabriola Chapter formed in June of 2014 and includes locums who call Gabriola Island their home. Chapter members are actively involved in conversations on the best way to meet both the primary and urgent care needs of Gabriola’s population by addressing equity, access, quality and efficiency. 

View RCCbc's interactive rural community map to learn more about Gabriola and its location.

Contact us to learn more about the Gabriola Island Chapter.

Our Team
Maciej Mierzewski, Physician Lead >
Angela Pounds, Chapter Coordinator >

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Gabriola Beyond Recovery

DECEMBER 30, 2020, GABRIOLA ISLAND, BC

GABRIOLANS SHARE THEIR COVID EXPERIENCES AND HOPES FOR THE FUTURE

In a report published today, researchers Fay Weller and Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley reveal the challenges that those who participated in the survey faced through the first eight months of the pandemic, the strategies they employed and their hopes for the future. The full research report can be found at https://sustainablegabriola.ca/gabriola-beyond-recovery-research/.

The Gabriola Beyond Recovery research was carried out on behalf of Sustainable Gabriola and the Gabriola Health and Wellness Collaborative. As Weller notes, “Over 360 Gabriolans – 1 in 10 -- described their experiences, well-being, and hopes for the future through a survey and interviews, providing a confidence level of 95% ± 5% for the quantitative responses”.

The report looks at impacts on the community as a whole, but it also drills down to understand the experiences of essential workers and vulnerable individuals. The research revealed the stresses and pressures that Gabriolans experienced through the first wave of COVID, as well as providing insights into effective strategies and actions necessary to strengthen community capacity going forward. 

Some of the findings were expected, and others surprising. Grateful, Anxious, and Stressed were the top three words used to describe Gabriolans’ emotional experience. This was consistent across income, age, gender, and employment status. Vulnerable individuals indicated similar emotional responses as the rest of the survey respondents. There were some minor differences -- women were more likely to choose Grateful while men were more likely to choose Normal; those in the 20-39-year-old age group chose Depressed, Lonely and Calm more than those 40 and older; and choosing the words Anxious, Stressed, and Bored increased as the number in the household increased.

Workers experienced higher degrees of Gratitude, Anxiety and Stress than the general population. The research was able to capture the perspectives of both public-facing retail and health workers, as well as those working from home. For many, the change of working from home was seen as a positive.

A number of respondents described having a mix of feelings reflecting the range of emotions experienced by Gabriolans during those initial months when everyone was trying to figure out how to respond to COVID-19, and how to live in a changing world that left people feeling on hold.

Drawing on the survey participants’ experiences and their hopes for the future, there were six big lessons learned.  The first two lessons reflected the impact of severed social connections, emphasizing the importance of social connections, connections with nature and exercise for well-being, and second, the importance of addressing increased anxiety and stress.

The next two lessons focused on workers, first on the magnified impact of the pandemic on workers, and how that could be mitigated, and second, the need for adaptation strategies for the vulnerable local health care system. As one worker noted: “At the time I had no choice but to show up for the community and do my work to the best of my ability . . . Looking back I see that I was anxious, stressed, trying my best to cope . . . I actually felt jealous of those who were told they couldn’t work and had to stay home, despite knowing how stressful that must have been”.

The final two lessons described broader strategies necessary to sustain the health of the community, namely: the importance of income stability, including consideration of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), and the need to increase community resilience through local make, grow and buy initiatives. As one survey participant noted:  “The future may improve considerably because of what we have learned about ourselves during this time”.

Report authors Dunsmoor-Farley and Weller want to express their gratitude to community members for sharing their stories.

For more information contact:

Dyan Dunsmoor-Farley