COVID-19 has been a part of our lives for some time. We’ve had to rethink and rejig how we conduct our daily business. We’ve had to physically distance from one another for many months now. Remember that physically distancing does not mean socially distancing. Reach out to friends and family. Connect with loved ones and check in with others. While we cannot gather in groups or meet up with friends in the same way we usually would, let’s take some time to highlight the alternatives.
Gathering with friends
Video calling with friends has never been easier. Most cell phones have cameras and apps that easily let callers connect through video. It’s hard sometimes not being able meet in person, but for a quick connection, a video call might be just the fix. As Manitoba entered Code Red and we were unable to gather with others outside our households, I relied on video calling to connect with my granddaughter. She loved it too! It can be the next best thing when in person gathering needs to be put on hold for our safety.
Zoom. Zoom. Zoom! Many office spaces have asked workers to transition to their home office, and why not? Today, with all the technology at our fingertips, we have the ability to connect with one another remotely. Through email and video conferencing programs like Zoom we are able to connect with our colleagues and keep up with our work. Zoom is something new to me but I’ve quickly become somewhat of an expert with it. As Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, I preside over house sittings. Usually, this means that all 57 MLAs, myself included, as well as a full table of clerks, security staff and pages are all in the chamber for extended periods of time. That’s not even including the over 200 seats available for the public to sit in the galleries and watch the proceedings.
Due to the pandemic, we made the call to reduce the number of people in the Chamber. The challenge became how to properly ensure that representatives are able to fully execute their responsibilities to Manitobans as they would be able to if present in the house. Setting up video conferencing for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly was a monumental task.
I want to say a sincere thank you to the Clerks of the Assembly as well as the technical support team for their tireless and diligent work on this important matter. Currently, the House session is operating with one third of the usual members. This means that two thirds of the members are working remotely. In using video conferencing, MLAs working remotely are able to represent their constituents just as well as if they were located in the Chamber. The House is currently in session and a livestream is available on the Manitoba Legislative Assembly website.
I encourage you to check out this interesting new process at https://www.gov.mb.ca/legislature/business/house_broadcasts.html. In addition to incorporating video conferencing for my House duties, I’ve also used this technology for meetings and connecting with my colleagues across the country.
Look for people in need
With the rise in the use of video conferencing, there has been a push for frequent video callers to learn about signals of distress. Intimate partner violence exists in our communities. With more people at home and COVID-19 restrictions in place to stop the spread, some people may be at higher risk of harm than ever before. To combat this and help those in need, please take a minute to recognize a hand signal. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, a fist facing the video conferencing camera is a signal for help. It’s a discrete and safe way for a victim to reach out without having to verbally express distress. Share this information with friends, family, and colleagues.
Dealing with COVID-19 in our communities has been incredibly challenging. This virus will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future. But there will come a time when we can gather again, we can visit with loved ones, and we can live our lives as we once had. Until then, we need to follow the restrictions set by the public health offices, wear a mask, and use proper hand hygiene. It’s important that we stay connected to one another. Go digital!
Hon. Myrna Driedger is MLA for Roblin and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.