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We have recently heard it said that Canadians defer to authority, while Americans rebel against authority.

Of course, the comment was made in relation to the two countries’ opposite reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically the need (or not) to wear facemasks and keep a social distance from others.

We can’t remember where we heard or read the comparison of Canadians and Americans, but that makes little difference. It is a sentiment that we have heard in various forms over the years.

For some reason, we thought about that when taking a photo of an entrance at the Hay River Community Centre. The door is covered with Covid-19 rules and restrictions for entering the building.

We wondered which is better in a time of a pandemic – to defer to authority or to rebel against it.

Rebelling is generally cooler. Star Wars has its Rebel Alliance. The movie series would lack something if it instead had a Deference Alliance. In fact, there would be no story to tell.

However, a science fiction epic is not the best place to go for guidance for a real-world pandemic.

So, in true Canadian fashion, we will say that it is better to defer to experts in a time of a pandemic.

That is our best bet to come out of the pandemic alive and well on the other side. The alternative is to trust a mishmash of Internet-fuelled theories and responses proposed by self-declared experts in fields they know little or nothing about. Or fringe doctors, who may also believe in sex with demons.

Needless to say, deferring to the advice of experts can only happen if there is a basic amount of trust in government, which we believe exists in Canada.

Many Americans on the other hand have a general distrust of experts, and actually think that government – or at least the party they oppose – is the enemy.

Perhaps there is an explanation in history for that difference. We prefer to think that way too many Americans are conspiracy-obsessed, gullible people who think it is patriotic to gather in crowds during a pandemic to cheer on President Donald Trump, who keeps a safe distance from the rabble.

We don’t like to insult anyone, but facts are facts.

Of course, not all Canadians trust government, and some espouse conspiracy theories. We got into a discussion – socially-distanced, of course – with a person self-isolating in Hay River who said he knew that Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Anthony Fauci were part of a conspiracy to profit from the Covid-19 pandemic.

What can you say to that?

Everyone is going to have their own opinions, but we think that following the advice of medical experts is the best way to go.

So we stopped and read the precautions and guidelines posted on the door of the Hay River Community Centre. Some might think the new rules are a little over the top, but the centre would not be open without them.

The rules for the step-by-step reopening of the centre are approved by Dr. Kami Kandola, the chief public health officer with the GNWT.

We don’t believe she is part of any conspiracy.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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