By ROCHELLE NITIKMAN
Much has been said about the spirit of volunteerism in our community (Hannah Brown’s Feb. 15 “Keep volunteerism at the forefront” Viewpoint piece).
Unfortunately, the point of some of this is to suggest that we would lose that spirit were we to choose to become a municipality. Those who dangle this threat in an effort to frighten members of our community have offered absolutely no evidence that municipalities — large and small — like, for example, Duncan, Vancouver, Bowen Island, etc. have no active groups of volunteers.
A municipality is a community and those of us who volunteer our services do so because, whether we live in a rural area or a community, we enjoy the feeling of belonging. People who volunteer like to help out. It is part of our nature. It makes us feel good to be of service and when required or asked to help, we come forward. This appears to be a feature of a community and certainly is not unique to Salt Spring Island. It is unique to people.
There is no doubt that our community does provide value from much of the volunteerism on our island. We think of the enormous efforts of those who, for example, plan and implement our fall fair, or the people who help at the Lady Minto Auxiliary Thrift Shop or the library volunteers, or so very many others.
So why should anyone think that these community-minded people would suddenly ignore these service opportunities if the community should opt to change our governance structure?
On the other hand, there are numerous instances where people come forward as “volunteers” because our governance system as it is now requires that we fill a vacuum. This often involves a role such as a fire board trustee whose decisions affect our taxes and our economic well-being. These may be volunteer roles which actually are a detriment insofar as the requirements to fill the role are, essentially, none and are often inconsistent with the responsibilities.
Think of the people who dedicate their time to organizations like Doctors Without Borders. They are volunteers in the sense that they are not paid but they need credentials: they are vetted and not accepted unless they are bona fide doctors.
Our current system has far too many slots that need a level of professionalism but fail to require anything more than a willingness to show up. While the intentions may be laudable, the results can be as disastrous as having an appendectomy performed by an actor.
The writer is a retired member of the B.C. judiciary who lives on Salt Spring Island.