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New Vital Signs report for Whistler highlights importance of belonging

Community Foundation of Whistler report aims to be a conversation-starter—just in time for election season
MEETING OF THE MINDS The Community Foundation of Whistler’s new Vital Signs Connect + Engage report aims to get Whistler talking about community and belonging. Photo submitted

Just in time for municipal elections, the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) has released a new report that measures the health of the community.

The Vital Signs Connect + Engage report is an update of the foundation's 2016 Vital Signs report, a comprehensive report that presented facts and residents' perceptions on key areas of community life.

The new report includes updated, 2016 census figures, and the results of CFOW's Connect and Engage Survey. Focused on the theme of belonging, the survey was completed by around 420 Whistlerites over the spring.

According to Carol Coffey, executive director of the CFOW, a sense of belonging is key to both physical and mental health.

"I view it as something that's really foundational," said Coffey.

"If we can create a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging, where children and newcomers feel belonging, we're creating people who are much more resilient and able to deal with various challenges that come in life.

"Belonging is so closely linked to physical and mental health."

On the positive front, the majority of respondents said they found it easy to make friends and knew at least one neighbour who they can turn to for help.

Yet at the same time, the report pointed to a number of indicators that show "weakened connections to the community."

Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said they spend more time alone than they would like, and 19 per cent described their sense of belonging as "weak" or "very "weak."

Moreover, the results also highlight challenges that stem from Whistler's housing crisis and high cost of living, as 63 per cent of respondents have had a close friend or family member leave Whistler due to affordability.

For Carole Stretch, chair of the Vital Signs project team, the report pointed to the need for the community to have a serious conversation about growth.

Distributed for free and presented in an engaging format, she said she hoped that it would serve as a good basis for productive conversations.

"What we're doing is we're putting this on the table," said Stretch. "We're saying 'come and join the conversation, let's talk about these things,' and let's see if people in the community want to come together and develop some solutions and ways forward."

You can pick up a copy at the Whistler Public Library, the next two all-candidates meeting. Or view it online at the following link: