Late last week, the public health office, senior government officials and the media, including Yellowknifer’s territorial sister paper, News/North, made a spectacle out of long-term NWT resident who drove from B.C. headed toward his homestead outside of Fort Liard where he planned to go into quarantine for two weeks. While he had quarantined in the south, he stopped in Hay River to gas up, not staying there as required but wanting to drive straight through to his nearby home and go into self isolation there. All hell broke loose.
When the first case of COVID-19 was revealed to the public up here the weekend before, the government and all news sources took great pains to keep the identity of that person private. They did that, apparently, to prevent any shaming, harassment or bullying that naming him could cause.
The GNWT then contradicted itself with shaming of ‘Pike’ Mike Harrison.
In his case, health and government officials went public expressing their anger and condemnation and media followed suit, all suggesting that this person had put the public at risk by ignoring the government’s newly installed emergency measures demanding immediate self-isolation upon entering the territories.
Forgotten in all of this, however, was that most of the mines, hotbeds for the virus, are not being forced to close even temporarily while this emergency is in effect. In addition to acting as a potential breeding ground for the virus, families are separated for longer periods of time leading to more emotional and mental distress and possibly breakdowns. The Facebook storm over this person’s defiance with its resulting hate-filled comments could cost someone their wellbeing and much more than that, thereby legitimizing hate.
This fear, the anger and the hatred are the very thing that officials around the world have wanted to avoid since the outbreak began late last year. It has been argued from the start that the fear generated around the virus could end up being more deadly than the virus itself.
The person in question did violate a new regulation though he had likely driven wildly to get back to the safety of his cabin and enter into quarantine before this public health decree could be instituted. But so are the mines where people gather and work in close quarters which is also forbidden and who is doing what about that?
Let those among you who are perfect be the first to throw stones. It seems that even the minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment went to a mining conference in Ontario after the virus had come to Canada and indeed, someone at that conference got sick. Dentists here had to self isolate after going to a convention in B.C. from which one man, a dentist from the west coast, has died. Lots of people are taking risks that put us all in danger. Just go to the grocery store if you think otherwise.
More than this, let’s not forget that this virus is the result of the human species pushing too hard against nature’s boundaries. We caused this pandemic by the unsustainable way we live, making a healthy economy more important than healthy people. So let’s quit looking for scapegoats and start dealing with the bigger picture.
How many of the people that threw stones over the weekend in their malicious Facebook attacks, some of which included death wishes, drive around in big trucks polluting our environment with their fossil fuel exhaust? How many have boats they take on the almost pure water of the NWT and cover it with oil slicks? The hurricanes, the droughts, the melting permafrost, the quickly disappearing wildlife of this earth have all been screaming at us to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle. This is the third pandemic in 20 years and this current one, which has yet to reach its apex, will be peanuts compared to what’s to come if we do not change.
So please, let’s stop promoting fear and hate – the very thing that will kill us all. We are all guilty here. So stop it. Just stop it.
And yes, by the way, you might recognize the person at the heart of this controversy as a hardworking local volunteer when he did live here including his tireless work on the snow castle. How many of you did that?
Postscript: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones or, before judging someone else, take the plank out of your own eye or … fear will not heal fear; only love will do that.