Dave Obee: After a six-month absence, Islander returns; plus reflections on the road ahead

It seems like yesterday, and it seems like a lifetime ago. On March 15, our Islander section featured this massive headline: “What you need to know about COVID-19.”

What we did not know was that it would be the last Islander for a while. One day, the only hint of the pandemic was the empty aisle where toilet paper used to be. The next day, our economy was being brought to its knees. The Times Colonist faced a near-catastrophic drop in advertising revenue — and with the losses we faced, we could not continue to publish Islander.

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Six months later, we are still adjusting to the ever-changing new normal. We need to “be kind, be calm and be safe,” as Dr. Bonnie Henry says — or, to quote a British poster from 1939, “Keep calm and carry on.”

Yes, we need to carry on. So on Sunday, we are bringing Islander back. It will include a timely analysis by Jeremy Kinsman, who served as Canada’s ambassador in Moscow, Rome, London, and Brussels, and is Distinguished Fellow at the Canadian International Council. His insight is well worth reading.

You will also find several columns, a look at the buildings that we should not call Northern Junk, the story of Vancouver Island’s first Black schoolteacher, the good news of Our Community, and more.

The return of Islander does not mean that this newspaper is back on solid ground — but we are getting there. Beyond that, we believe that we play a critical role in the Island’s recovery, stability and social well-being. Many of you would agree, based on the thanks I have been given over the past six months.

Despite overwhelming odds, we have not missed a publication date. Our readers could count on us being there, in print or online, despite the pandemic and the chaos it has unleashed. The Times Colonist is only one of many local organizations that are determined to help us all get through this.

I continue to worry about what will unfold over the next couple of months. Blame the lasting impact of the coronavirus or blame the smoky skies, but we are all out of sorts.

The notion that we are all in this together seems to be fraying as it becomes increasingly obvious that we are in this for the long haul.

We are better than this. Together, we will get through this.

There is no doubt that this pandemic will change our lives, just as the Great Depression changed the lives of our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. This pandemic has forced a reset; the normal we had is gone. Our new normal could be another old normal by the end of the year. Get used to constant change.

Some local businesses are thriving, but most are suffering. Please support them as much as you can. Your purchases might make the difference between their continued operation and their failure. Your friends and neighbours own them and work at them. Our community fabric depends on them.

Please, continue to ­follow those familiar protocols designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Let’s keep the infection rate as low as possible, to help our community recover faster. Let’s be kind to each other and help each other.

And remember to check the Times Colonist every Sunday for the Islander section. It’s back, starting tomorrow.

When we published our last Islander on March 15, Canada had recorded just one death, and there was just one case on Vancouver Island.

Our feature included suggestions for staying healthy, and mentioned the 143,000 cases reported worldwide at the time. Fast forward six months, and there have been 31 million cases of the coronavirus around the world.

We face a long, hard road ahead, but we will get to the other side. Let’s keep calm. Let’s carry on.

dobee@timescolonist.com

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