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Column: BIU’s ‘Out-Of-The-Box’ Leadership

[Written by Glenn Fubler]

In September, the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association penned a letter encouraging all residents to seriously consider getting vaccinated for Covid, upon the advice of their physician. 104 doctors signed-off in support, within a fortnight. Now, almost 100 additional ‘Health Professionals’ have confirmed their concurrence for that clarion call.

Also recently, a second stakeholder organization – the Bermuda Industrial Union – has urged their few thousand members to please seriously consider getting vaccinated. The message from the Bermuda Industrial Union Executive Board went on to encourage their membership to please stop listening to social media quacks, but rather rely on advice from their family doctors.

The significance of this rallying cry is multi-fold. Not the least being that a fair portion of the BIU membership are serving in roles among those sectors – those heroes – of our community that are most exposed to Covid in their normal employment.

In addition, there’s the matter of the BIU legacy – this Fall marks the 75th Anniversary of its formation- a history of promoting rights, even beyond employment matters.

And what is more fundamental, than the Right to Life?

The BIU grew directly out of the Bermuda Workers Association [BWA] which had been formed during the summer of 1944. It is worth noting that two medical doctors played seminal roles in that beginning – a process that provided a renaissance for post- World War II Bermuda.

One of this pair – Dr Eustace Cann – relatively unknown to current generations, served in the ‘birthing process’ of the Union. A Member of Parliament, representing Sandy’s, Dr Cann’s large practice was popular for the families of many workers at both the Dockyard and the U. S. Base in Southampton.

Dr Cann championed social justice in an unjust society. He advised those pioneering activists who formed the Dockyard Workman’s Association in the late 1930’s and when workers took action at the U.S. Base, he provided the detailed advice that led to the formation of the BWA in June 1944. Dr Cann – also a champion of the Sandy’s Secondary School, turned down the invitation to serve as the President of the BWA – given his commitments – and subsequently Dr E.F. Gordon agreed to take that key role.

It was Dr Gordon who served the Labour Movement for that first decade. The BIU’s formation in 1947 was a strategic response to the machinations of the local Power Elite. That period provided the vital foundation for the decades of evolution – through much struggle – of a democratic society which we enjoy today.

Those two physicians were progressive socially and professionally. They solidly supported the science, having excelled at their reputable medical schools – Edinburgh University [Gordon] and Howard University [Cann].

In fact, Dr Cann’s son; Dr John Cann took on the medical ‘baton’ from his father, specializing in Public Health. He eventually served for some thirty years as the Chief Medical Officer of Bermuda. A champion of the efficacy of vaccinations in protecting societies, Dr John Cann’s legacy includes the solid infrastructure that has served Bermuda well during this Pandemic.

Both Dr Eustace Cann and Dr E.F. Gordon shared a spirit that provided our society with ‘out-of-the box’ leadership. Dr Cann broke ranks with his fellow Black Parliamentarians who were continuing to employ an ‘all or nothing’ approach campaigning for the Right to Vote when in April 1944 he moved out of that ‘box’ and supported the historic Women’s Suffrage passage in Parliament. That long-sought breakthrough came only weeks before workers at the US base approached Dr Cann for advice; resulting in the formation of the BWA.

Dr Gordon’s ‘out-of-the-box’ leadership approach is easily accessible.

It is this ‘out-of-the-box’ spirit of leadership that is evident in the urgent message that the BIU Executive has sent to their membership. They have recognized that extraordinary circumstances require responses that look at the big picture:

  • We should all be working to keep Bermuda as safe as we can.

That spirit reflects an awareness of the reality of the interconnectedness of society, including:

  • The  statement encouraged members to share the out-of-the box spirit: we need to keep each other safe by protecting not only our immediate family members but also our family in the workplace.

This captures the out-of-the box spirit in the campaign promoting the Global Access of Vaccines:

  • ‘None of us are safe, unless all of us our safe’.

In offering these kudos to the BIU, we share the hope that other stakeholders might be encouraged and be moved by that spirit.