For the first time BC’s rural islands have launched an initiative to cultivate rural island economic partnerships. The Rural Islands Economic Forum (RIEF), a two day event, will bring together leaders from rural island communities to focus on advancing local and regional, sustainable, economic capacity building. The Forum gets underway on Pender Island on November 7 – 8, 2019, and prioritizes actions related to economic well-being, the sharing of best practices, and how partnerships can be fostered across the islands. Communities include – Bowen, Cormorant, Cortes, Denman, Gabriola, Galiano, Hornby, Malcom, Mayne, Pender, Quadra, Salt Spring, San Juan, Saturna, Texada, and Thetis Island.
Spearheaded by the Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) of Salt Spring Island, CEDC Chair, Francine Carlin says there’s enthusiastic support for the program, “There’s considerable interest in creating a conference that focuses on the economic need and challenges facing rural island communities.” She adds, “With 16 islands actively engaged in this endeavour it provides an opportunity to address our common challenges and seek solutions to advance entrepreneurial sustainable strategies, protect rural island cultures, collaborate with First Nations and envision a sustainable future through a rural island lens.”
Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson says the Forum is timely. “In our present era of active climate change, it is time for rural islands to build deep resiliency and adaptation through sharing our experiences and outlining our common interests. In so doing, we will help make our islands places that can both sustain what is coming, as well as be centers of learning.” Anderson explains, “We envision this as the first gathering of an on-going rural island network where we will share knowledge and advocate together for what we need to sustain our islands' well being in the face of immanent and unprecedented change.”
The Forum will be educational, informational, and action-oriented and bring together a diverse representation of rural island economic development, business and community builders – from all of BC’s populated rural islands.