Skip to main content

It wasn’t long after Alberta’s chief medical officer introduced new restrictions in response to an alarming rise in COVID-19 case numbers that freedom fighters in the province were protesting the terrible infringement on their liberties.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said that Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s directive to keep gatherings to 15 people or less was another violation of the public’s Charter-protected freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.

“This order is not properly grounded in relevant considerations such as deaths, hospitalizations and ICU capacity,” said a news release from the centre, “and is therefore not a justifiable violation of fundamental Charter freedoms.”

Of course, the fine people at the justice centre would know much more about the trajectory of the virus and what it could mean to the capacity of hospitals to handle a massive second wave of the virus than, say, Dr. Hinshaw, who has years of experience in public health. How dare she attempt to fulfil her mandate to protect the health of people living in Alberta!

The fact is, Dr. Hinshaw had every right to issue the order she did. Alberta is facing a surge in cases, which has forced hospitals to shut down elective services because of the number of COVID-19 cases they are handling. The community spread of the virus has also affected health care workers; they’ve become infected, and that has had a corollary effect on staffing levels at many of these same hospitals.

The statement from Alberta’s justice centre is so irresponsible – so terribly blinkered – that it’s hard to believe. But then, maybe it isn’t. It certainly reflects an attitude that exists in our society. While I believe it lives among a minority of people, that’s all it takes to create many of the problems we are witnessing today.

The disturbing uptick in cases in B.C., for instance, has been blamed on large gatherings, especially weddings and celebrations of life. What drives me nuts is the idea that some people think they’re exempt from making the same sacrifices you and I are. Let others cancel their wedding plans, sometimes at a huge personal and financial expense. Let others defer celebrating the life of someone who has left us amid the pandemic.

The level of pure, unadulterated selfishness is astounding. I see it when I go to the grocery store. I would say 95 per cent of the people who go to mine wear a mask, but there are always a few – nearly always men – who refuse. No one will tell them what to do. Let others endure the discomfort of having to shop with a face covering.

These no-maskers are the same people who complain the loudest when the government is forced to shut things down again because the virus is multiplying at a dangerous rate. We’re seeing that in Europe and other places now.

Sure, we can blame our governments for mixed messaging, for virus-fighting measures that don’t always make sense to us. Absolutely. But that doesn’t excuse behavior that is blatantly reckless and negligent, on the part of people who are so self-centred and arrogant (or stupid) they don’t care.

There are a lot of those types in the U.S., where the virus continues to kill at record rates. There are lots of them in places like El Paso, in Texas, where people are dying from the virus faster than authorities can process their deaths. Over the weekend, there was a backlog of 85 bodies yet to be released to their families. The county was forced to set up its fourth mobile morgue unit, 24 hours after setting up its third.

But that only happens in the U.S., people say. Well, it certainly does happen in the U.S., where there are many who feel the state has no business telling them what to do or how to live their lives – even if that means others have to pay the price for their intransigence. But it’s precisely the same sort of attitude that is reflected in that statement from Alberta’s justice centre.

On Monday, B.C. announced a staggering 1,120 new cases of the virus, another grim reminder of just how active the virus is in a province that had it under control for most of the summer. But then people got a taste of a good thing and decided to slip into old habits, despite pleas from public health officials to rein in that type of behaviour.

If the numbers continue to rise, the government will be forced to re-introduce closures. And that won’t be anyone’s fault but our own.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct