Coastal Guardian Watchmen Stay Connected During COVID-19

Coastal Guardian Watchmen are often focused on home, protecting the local culture, communities and ecosystems of their respective Nations.

However, regional perspectives play a crucial role in the Guardians’ day-to-day work, and are a major reason why these efforts are so important.

The Coastal Stewardship Network has been supporting this regional work for years, by planning and facilitating annual gatherings and monthly conference calls (now via videoconference), which give Guardians a chance to learn from others and share best practices.

As issues related to COVID-19 continue to affect communities throughout the North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, that regional collaboration and coordination has taken on a new importance—especially for Guardians who often carry out frontline duties above and beyond their stewardship role.

“At our last two videoconferences, Guardian teams were able to update each other about how their respective communities were responding to issues related to the virus,” says Jackie Peat, who facilitates the calls each month for Coastal Guardian Watchmen. “It was also a really good chance for them to show support for each other during a very difficult time.”

To that end, Peat and others on the CSN team put together a comprehensive package of information and resources related to the virus—everything from the ways to prevent its spread to financial and other benefits that are available for those not able to work under lockdown or quarantine.

Those same resources were used to help create a new COVID-19 page on the CFN website, which will be updated as the pandemic progresses. The page will be a resource not just for Guardians but for residents throughout coastal communities.

“Like everyone else, Guardians are feeling the effects of this global crisis; it’s been a major disruption for their regular work, including daily patrols and monitoring,” says Peat, adding that many are now doing frontline work to protect their communities, such as operating check-points and ensuring Elders are cared for. “Across the board, Guardians are stepping up to keep their communities as safe as possible,” she says. “Through it all, they’re demonstrating tremendous resiliency and adaptability.”

As the roles of Coastal Guardian Watchmen shift in response to coronavirus, CSN is working with CFN Nations to develop safe working procedures and appropriate protective equipment, which will help Guardians once they fully get back out in the field to safely protect their lands and waters.

Nuxalk Guardian Watchmen manager Ernie Tallio says those updated safety procedures will be crucial as his team begins the delayed patrol season. But they were also very important for Nuxalk Guardians who’ve been busy working at the Nuxalk COVID-19 information checkpoint over the last couple months.

“The safe working procedures and PPE [personal protective equipment] have been a huge help at those checkpoints for sure,” says Tallio. “But we’ll definitely be implementing them once the team is fully back out on the water as well.”

Tallio says it may take some time getting regular Guardian patrols up-to-speed again, but he’s confident the team has fully bought into the procedures that will make their day-to-day work as safe as possible throughout this ongoing crisis.