Top News

COLUMN: Quality of life matters on so many levels

Wendy Elliott. File
Wendy Elliott. File - SaltWire Network
WOLFVILLE, N.S. —

It was moving to attend the vigil held in Wolfville for the victims of the mass bombings in Sri Lanka at Easter. Looking around the circle of about 50 people who attended, I was struck by the diversity represented.

Various faiths, ages, and skin colours came out. Certainly the Syrian refugee families, who arrived in 2016, were on hand. I was reminded of something Mayar Tahina told Mike Butler in The Grapevine recently.

“Coming to Canada was a wonderful and scary thing but it’s opened my eyes to know that people love each other whether they’re strangers or family,” he said.

From Bruce Matthews, who has lived in Sri Lanka, I learned that country, which is the size of New Brunswick, has a population of 20 million. There are a wide range of racial and ethnic groups, but Buddhists represent 75 per cent of the population.

Three Sri Lankan students at Acadia University turned out. I spoke with one who had lost three friends in church bombings. Two said they’d already booked tickets to fly home last week, but then their parents told them to stay in Canada.

There are several Sri Lankan families who live in the area. One of the parents got a phone call at 1 a.m. Easter weekend to ease her mind. Her brother, who works at one of the targeted resorts, was fortunately not on duty.

As Rev. Sandra Fyfe said afterward, much “love, compassion and solidarity were shared. I feel blessed to live here with such incredible people. You give me hope that the world can be different.”

Coincidentally, Engage Nova Scotia is releasing an important survey about quality of life this week. This provincial exercise will carry on into June. Surveys will be delivered through regular mail to 80,000 randomly selected households (one in every five) in a first-of-its-kind provincial survey to measure quality of life across eight key areas: education, health, community vitality, the environment, time use, leisure and culture, democratic engagement and living standards.

Residents across the province are being asked to participate. Hearing from a large and diverse sample, the Engage Nova Scotia folks say is important. Residents who receive a request will be asked to complete a 30-minute survey.

I had a chance to speak to Michael Flood, who is directing this exercise, and he expressed excitement at the possibility of gathering a fulsome profile of our quality life. The survey isn’t focused on job growth and GDP, he said, it’s about overall life satisfaction — the whole picture. Nova Scotia tends to be viewed nationally as a bit of a sluggish place, Flood said, but with subjective information about life experience that could change.

Since ours is the first province to attempt to gather what Flood calls ‘sandbox conversations’ to inform political decision makers, it is an interesting exercise. To ensure the best data, 10 teams across Nova Scotia have been set up to reach out to the homeless and to foodbank users so the marginalized will be heard. The survey is going to be administered independently by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing at the University of Waterloo.

Valley native Sally O’Neil, who works with Active Pictou County, told me, “this kind of community-specific, deep-dive data collection will really give me a clear picture of what my community needs. It will help me understand where I can offer targeted support that is actually going to make a positive change in people’s lives.”

O’Neil spoke about the importance of hearing “from my neighbour who can’t get a job because she can’t get a car, so she can’t get the job to pay for the car to get to the job.”

Please fill it out! She said “this is a very important survey, that will inform work like mine, and that of many others working to build a healthier community.”

Engage Nova Scotia has indicated that once collected, the survey information will likely result in 10 regional reports. Those reports could serve as the foundation for innovative approaches to priority setting and planning at a local level for years to come.

As Flood noted, rural Nova Scotia has a special sense of community where newcomers from Syria and Sri Lanka are welcomed and neighbours check on neighbours. Let’s document that uniqueness.

Former Advertiser and Register reporter Wendy Elliott lives in Wolfville.

Recent Stories