Leela's Message for May 2020



Hello Newsy Neighbour readers!


I am certain that, like me, you wait daily for Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s commentary on the state of the public health emergency. As I write this, the Premier has laid out the first steps, giving us a look at the light at the end of this tunnel and it is because you did such an amazing job following the guidelines from our Medical Officer Of Health. The full credit of the relaunch lies with Albertans and I would like to thank you for everything you have done to help us accomplish this.


This has not been easy; in fact, the gradual lifting of the public health orders, I’m certain, can’t come fast enough for some of you. Others may be afraid, and uncomfortable with relaunching and getting back to our lives, and please know that many share that anxiety. We must continue to practice hygiene, washing our hands and following guidelines. Most importantly, this virus has not gone away and if you have any symptoms, please take the online self-assessment quiz at Alberta.ca and contact 811 if directed to do so. These measures are in place for your protection and by following expert medical advice, we will be able to reopen society. We will continue to monitor and track the virus.

There will be three stages to the relaunch and if we can keep infection rates low, we should see some early changes immediately like resuming non-urgent surgeries. We hope to see the relaunch begin on May 14th. Thank you to everyone for their efforts in flattening the curve. We will be holding a series of round tables in the next days and weeks, and I will post those on my Facebook page so that you can join in.


I, like many Canadians, sat in shock as the events around the mass murder in Nova Scotia unfolded, and then we had the crash of a military helicopter off the coast of Greece during a training exercise. As I write this, many families in Fort McMurray are facing the loss of their recently rebuilt homes from the flood. This is devastating for a community that has already endured so much. Add to that the COVID-19 crisis, the economic downturn, the commodities crash and well, it is very hard to see the light at the end of that very long tunnel. It is amazing but not at all surprising to see that even at the most difficult times, Albertans rally together to help each other out, and we are seeing help even from those who have been evacuated, helping those who need it most, and others right across this province reaching into their pockets to send diapers, water, food, and other necessities to our families in need. All I can say is, thank you.


This month, we recognize Sexual Violence Awareness Month. Conversations around the facts about sexual violence are imperative to supporting survivors, educating our youth, and working towards the safety and well-being of our society. Sexual violence is about control and any type of sexual activity without consent is sexual assault. Perpetrators abuse their authority, and use trust, coercion and threats, drugs and alcohol, to justify this human violation. Please learn about how you can intervene, how to support and how to identify signs of abuse in your life or your organizations. It is our collective responsibility to end sexual assault, and it is time to shine big bright lights into the dark corners where this abuse occurs. The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services found in its recent study that 45 percent of Albertans have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. As we continue to navigate a new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be aware of the fact that sexual violence can increase during times of crisis. Sexual Violence Awareness Month will focus on the actions being taken to prevent this violence, the resources and supports available to support survivors, and shine a light on the amazing organizations and staff across the province that continue to provide services to bring support and healing to those impacted by sexual violence.


Please know that help and support is available. I encourage anyone who needs support to dial 211, check out Alberta.ca for resources, or contact your local shelters. To reiterate, sexual assault and domestic violence thrive in darkness so let’s shine a light. If you suspect someone is facing sexual assault or any kind of domestic violence please speak up. Call your local police. They need to hear from you.


In closing, I want to express my deepest gratitude for all the frontline workers at sexual assault centres, crisis centres and support phone lines across the province, especially during these difficult times. Thank you for being a beacon of hope to those in need and helping to empower survivors to share their stories and access supports. As always, I love to hear from you. Call my office at 403-962-0126 or email chestermere.strathmore@assembly.ab.ca.


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