Important conversation about Digby underway

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Dr. Ron Matsusaki in his letter ‘Why Digby does not attract doctors’ (Courier, Jan. 9) has misdiagnosed Digby as culture-less and oversimplified our current economic problems. That said, I applaud Matsusaki for his letter. He has started a very important conversation.

I am a current resident of the town of Digby and grew up in the municipality. I ran for town councilor in the 2013 election, and have been involved in numerous community events on a volunteer basis. I chose to return to Digby as an educator despite opportunities to work abroad.  For both my husband and I, returning to Digby was an easy decision.

While some of you may agree with Matsusaki and believe that Digby has no culture and does not celebrate its history, I encourage you to read Greg Turner’s response, proof that Digby is in fact both rich in history and culture. There are numerous people throughout Digby County who dedicate countless hours to enriching and prompting what the town of Digby and surrounding communities have to offer. Culture is more than just art and music, even though we are abundant in both.

What I found most unsettling about Matsusaki’s article and the subsequent Facebook comments in support of his letter is that there are numerous people who believe Digby has no culture. For an area not to have a unique and celebrated culture is disappointing. To be ill represented as culture-less is damaging. What we as residents of Digby County need to do is address this myth.  We need to erase this prevalent image of Digby and do more to promote and showcase our history and culture to newcomers and prospective residents.  

Matsusaki is spot on when he says that we are “unlike our small neighbouring community Bear River.” Bear River is a lovely community, but they too face the same doctor crisis. Digby is neither Bear River nor Annapolis Royal and copying them will do nothing to help our culture or attract doctors. 

Digby does offer gainful employment. The two industries attacked by Matsusaki for their inability to “sustain a comfortable community economy” are at the basis of our history, culture, and current economy. To cast them aside would be to cast aside much of our culture and history. There are opportunities for growth in both the tourism and fishing industries, deserting them in pursuit of another industry would be a detriment.

As Matsusaki suggests, we should work towards attracting other industries. However, we should do it in addition to continuing growth in our primary industries. Tidal power is already on our doorstep. Fundy Tidal Inc., a Brier Island company, is already working in conjunction with local governments.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t think Digby has a sign anywhere that says ‘new industry unwelcome.’ The problem is cyclical. It is very hard to attract new industries and businesses to an area that cannot provide comprehensive medical care. Without doctors we cannot attract new industries or businesses. I agree with Matsusaki, without job and career opportunities for the partners of doctors it is very difficult to attract doctors.

The need for doctors is not unique to Digby. It is not even unique to rural Nova Scotia or Canada as a whole. We need to do more as a community, a province, and a country to make medical care accessible to all.  I don’t necessarily know how to bring about this change, but I am happy to get involved in finding the answer, just as I am happy to engage in and be a part of the unique culture that exists in Digby County.

Joan O’Neil, Digby

Organizations: Annapolis Royal, Fundy Tidal

Geographic location: Digby County, Bear River, Brier Island Nova Scotia Canada

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