Correction: An earlier version of this column suggested authorities have issued tickets for social distancing infractions. No tickets have been issued to date, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. NNSL Media apologizes for the error.
There is little doubt that most people are aware that public health is trying to act in the best interests of the general population, but there is a growing concern with the way the lockdown is being handled.
We know we are a world in crisis and that it may be true that the rate of infections in Canada has yet to peak, but extending emergency measures without adequate warning or conversation and with the public does not seem to be an appropriate way to handle this crisis. And now public health police are on the streets handing out information, strict warnings and tickets (none have been issued yet, according to the GNWT) if they deem it to be necessary which may not be the best way of reaching out to the people of the Northwest Territories.
We are not the enemy.
Though our case numbers are now zero likely due to no community transmissions, we are nevertheless under emergency measures for an indefinite period of time. Yet we are not a police state or a police nation, nor a homeless shelter but a collection of residents who have consciously chosen to make the territories their home. Most care about one another in this city and in the communities and while most also understand a need for rigid (not aggressive) enforcement measures, we also deserve respectful messaging from our elected officials and those who serve under them.
We are aware of the threat posed by this virus. We have watched with horror the crisis unfold in China, Italy, Spain, Europe and the tragedy in the U.S. where we witnessed mass graves being dug to bury the dead in New York. We are a sensitive and intelligent lot which is why the majority understand the need to social distance and stay home.
We see public health police patrolling our streets and while most just hand out information, that could lead to more aggressive tones and actions. Yet we are under threat every time we walk by the downtown post office so the rules and their application are inconsistent at best and overly broad at the same time.
More than that, medical experts are now telling us that one of the growing concerns around the pandemic is trauma and the mental health issues that could arise from long-term forced isolation. Aggressive messaging does not help. Phrases such as, “we are coming to get you” do little to ease the anxieties of many.
We know that while some are receiving benefits from the federal government, others are not. The financial stresses of the day for them add to the stress of the pandemic. Some small businesses operators are saying that if the enforced shut down continues much longer, their operations will be lost forever. We can only imagine how that must feel. This is not calling for abandoning all shutdown measures, but it is a call for more sensitive and humanitarian messaging. Many in the service sector have lost their incomes with nothing to fall back on.
People on social media cannot help but notice an increase in anger and frustration in some of the postings.
We know that domestic violence rates in Canada are the highest here in the North and we have no idea what is happening behind closed doors. While the federal government has offered funding to help some of those service providers, social distancing and mandatory stay at home orders no doubt add to building tensions there, too. And surely, with children now at home for a month, everyone’s patience is surely being tried.
We know that the legislation around the NWT emergency measures act is currently under review because the act was written long ago when nothing like this was envisioned by its authors. That is a good thing. This, too, is not necessarily to negate powers or say that something questionable is happening, but it is to make sure the measures are not unnecessarily usurping civil rights.
We are a democracy which means we want to be involved in the political process. And if anything, once again, the whole concept of consensus government needs to be re-evaluated and should become an election issue. It is not the last time situations such as this are likely to come up considering the ongoing challenges of our times. The NWT is all grown up and needs a party system where the voices of all of its elected representatives are heard.
Postscript:. Remember the virtual funeral services in Nova Scotia this Friday … we are a country and share this collective grief. While we cannot hold them in our arms, we can hold them in our hearts.
What this means is that they are concerned about an outbreak among the homeless population because of their risky. behaviors when they share cigerattes, for example. If this is true, and if they are the most vulnerable to catching and circulating the virus, then walking by the post office when they gather there does put the community at risk. It is not a comment on them, but on the threat which comes from the virus and who it has the real potential of infecting.
“Yet we are under threat every time we walk by the downtown post office…” This line perturbs me. Are you saying that because there’s street people that sit by the post office, they are a threat???!!!