BC CRN’s team of Regional Mentors helps communities establish Community Response Networks (CRNs). Mentors provide ongoing local support in the coordination of responses to abuse, neglect, and self-neglect, and community development initiatives. Some Mentors are also community development partners who collaborate with local agencies and organizations to respond to the needs of their people.
Linda Martens is one of BC CRN’s newest Regional Mentors (She’s been in the role for six months.) responsible for the Fraser Canyon, Cariboo, and Chilcotin region, an area that includes the districts from Boston Bar to Lillooet, north to Williams Lake, and west in the Chilcotin area.
The Fraser Canyon, Cariboo, and Chilcotin region is also a newly established zone to BC CRN. It’s carte blanche for Linda as she meets the challenge to establish, and in some cases re-establish, the area’s CRNs.
No doubt, her skills in team building, leadership, and relationship building, which all stem from her vast and varied work experience with the Canadian Reserves, in community outreach, and in customer service, will help communities rally together to support the most vulnerable and marginalized.
We are very pleased to introduce you to Linda as our BC CRN spotlight for this edition.
Linda and her husband have called 100 Mile House home since 2013. Married since 2015 and now retired, the couple lives on the traditional and unceded lands of the Tsq’escenemc (The People of Broken Rock) Canim Lake, a member of the Shuswap People.
When not with family, (“We are a blended family and I have six grandchildren on my side. We’re always surrounded by family.”) they fish and camp, time and weather permitting.
“We have an aluminum boat and we like to fish for rainbow trout – it has the most flavourful meat,” says Linda. “It’s peaceful, talking and fishing in the middle of the lake. We’re fair-weathered fishers, although my husband also likes to fish early in the morning. Being a night person, I can’t. I like to say that if I’m asleep, the fish are asleep too!”
In addition to fishing, Linda is also carving out part of her retirement to serve her third term as a school board trustee for the Cariboo Chilcotin district (“I have grandchildren in the public school system.”), and her first term as a director for the Williams Lake and District Credit Union. (“Credit unions are community-based and do a lot in support of communities. I wanted to be part of this.”)
In between gigs, she makes time to volunteer as the membership chair for the local Forest Grove Legion. She has been an active member of the Royal Canadian Legion for 20 years.
Linda’s connection to the Canadian military can be traced back several decades. She is a retired Captain in the Canadian Forces. She started this part of her career when her two sons were of age, she entered them into the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps (RCACC) program where she also volunteered.
“I realized how much I enjoyed working with youth during my time with RCACC,” she recalls. “I loved it so much, I went ahead to become a cadet instructor in the Cadet Instructor Care program and worked my way up to Captain. This role, along with being a mom and my job with Telus took up my whole life for a while.”
At Telus, which was known as BC Tel when she first started with the company in the mid-’70s, Linda bounced between customer service and credit service roles, which took her from their Lower Mainland offices to Vernon. “I grew up in Surrey and spent my early life based in the Lower Mainland. The job at Telus was the first job out of school,” she says. “Changes in the company structure also created an opportunity to move to Vernon with my family where we would live until 2003. When Telus relocated my role back to the Lower Mainland, I decided to leave the organization and explore the world.”
Linda’s work with the Legion and RCACC would also earn her the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. This award is presented by the Governor General of Canada to Canadians, both citizens and permanent residents, who made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens, their community, or to Canada.
With her sons grown, Linda relocated to Calgary, Alberta for a year before heading to Fort St. John.
“The relocation to Fort St. John was an opportunity to help with looking after one of my grandsons,” she says.
During this time, Linda would also become a case manager and shelter supervisor with the Salvation Army for a couple of years, and then an outreach coordinator for the local literacy society.
“I loved helping people,” she adds. “I think this comes from all my years working in customer service with Telus. It all started there.”
Linda stayed in Fort St. John until 2014 when she would move again over 760 km to 100 Mile House, where she and her husband enjoy the great outdoors together.
“We have a 26-foot travel trailer that has everything,” she says. “There are so many lakes here. We love going to them to sit and fish. Lots of our friends do the same, so we’ll meet somewhere where we’ll sit together for a week, enjoying what’s around us and each other’s company.”
The two also have plans to travel, depending on how the pandemic goes.
At the time of our interview, Linda was planning a trip to Winnipeg the following week. “My second son and his family are there,” she says. “I’m looking forward to this trip. Because of the pandemic, I haven’t seen them in nearly two years.”
Alaska is also on their travel bucket list.
Her passion for family, community, and people translates well into her role as Regional Mentor.
“I have three older brothers, and through the foster system, I also have three younger brothers and a sister,” says Linda. “Our parents taught us that the most important thing in life is family. I still hold onto this belief.”
Linda’s connections in the community helped her become aware of the Regional Mentor opening when it was first advertised and was encouraged her to apply.
“I rubbed shoulders with the local Community Response Network in Fort St. John while I lived there years ago,” recalls Linda. “At the time, I was also a literacy outreach coordinator in the community and had little exposure to the work of the CRN. I don’t have a background in social services or understand the clinical or medical side of the issues vulnerable adults experience, but I do have a wide network and I like helping people.”
Since starting the role, Linda has spent the last six months reaching out to the communities and having lots of conversations, introducing BC CRN and herself to the community.
“It’s a bit of a learning curve. I had no idea how many agencies were out there or how they worked,” she explains. “Then, there were the First Nations, which added even more complexity to the learning curve.”
(The Fraser Canyon, Cariboo, and Chilcotin region is located on the traditional unceded territories of the Secwépemc, Tsilhqot’in, Dakelh, St’at’imc, and Nlaka’pamux peoples.)
“I grew up with an adopted brother who holds First Nations status, and I thought I understood the Indigenous side of things,” Linda says. “I had no idea how big of a story it really was until I got into this role.”
To date, Linda has helped Lillooet, where just over 50 percent of the people living in the district community and surrounding area are Stʼatʼimc First Nations, form their CRN. It’s a feat since she began working in her role during a global pandemic and during a heat dome that fueled one of the worst wildfire seasons on record in the province. (Her household was on an ongoing evacuation alert.)
“Lillooet has an aging population and a very large First Nation’s and Indigenous community,” Linda says. “According to the 2016 census, the average income of a First Nation’s household was approximately $65,000 against the provincial average of $95,000. There are agencies and supports there: our job is to work together to help bridge this gap…and the CRN has some great ideas. There is good work happening.”
She also has big plans for the next six months, even if meetings are inconsistent due to the pandemic.
“I hope to have CRNs in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake up and running,” Linda says. “After that, we’ll work on developing relationships with more Indigenous communities: we will be able to build off the work and the learnings from the Lillooet team. It’s about finding the champions in the area who want to put themselves out there and make a difference.”
(Header photo: L. Martens)