Allan (Olie) and Edwina Henderson of the Wei Wai Kum Nation lead the procession to start the B.C. Elders Gathering at the Vancouver Convention Centre in July 2019. The couple were King and Queen for the 2019 event, which is now tentatively expected to resume at the downtown convention centre in late summer 2021. (Denise Titian photo)
The B.C. Elders Gathering is the latest event to be cancelled due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
The announcement came today from the BC Elders Communication Centre Society, which organizes the annual event that was scheduled for July 7-8 in Vancouver.
“Of course, all registration fees and vendor fees will be reimbursed in full ASAP, but we do have to wait for deposits to be reimbursed to us and government funding to still come in for 2020,” reads a notice issued to participants.
The society hopes to hold an elders’ gathering next year at the Vancouver Convention Centre in late summer.
This would have been the 44th annual event, an enormously popular gathering among First Nations across the province that has drawn thousands of participants in the past. Last year’s gathering saw more than 1,800 elders and support staff flock to the Vancouver Convention Centre on the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueum Nations.
But large gatherings have proven to be fertile territory for the highly contagious novel coronavirus to spread, leading B.C.’s provincial health officer to currently prohibit events of over 50 people and urge those who are out in public to maintain a six-foot distance from others.
The prospect of an elders gathering this summer also poses an additional public health risk, as older adults have shown to be more susceptible to COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus that has yet to face a medical cure or a vaccination. According to data released by the province on April 17, 54 is the median age among the more than 1,800 cases in B.C., but 86 is the mid-point number of those who have died from COVID-19. Over 90 per cent of B.C.’s 94 fatalities have been to those over 70, a prevalence among elders that has helped to inform the province’s focus on controlling the spread of the coronavirus in long-term care and assisted living homes. Across the province 19 such facilities are currently affected by COVID-19.