United still – and forever grateful

As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches the two-year mark and many restrictions are lifted, we hope we have seen the end of the nonsense Canadians have had to endure over the last six weeks.

Our fingers are crossed that among the associated casualties  will be the latest narrative coming from the anti-everything crowd:  that Canadians are “divided.” 

From our perspective, nothing could be further from the truth.

Upwards of 85% of us have been united since day one. We understood the need to protect others, including the ill, elderly, immunocompromised and those brave souls working in hospitals, long-term care homes and other healthcare settings.

So we wore masks, distanced, avoided large crowds and gratefully took a free, safe and effective vaccine when we had the chance. And we willingly sacrificed a few privileges in order to protect ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our communities.

We hated every moment of it, of course, and we often weren’t happy to do the heavy lifting for the small minority who chose a different path, but we did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do. 

We know certain yahoos will surely try to claim responsibility for helping to end pandemic restrictions – the vaccine passport is gone in Ontario and masking mandates are expected to follow by the end of the month (both were always temporary) – but most of us know these claims are delusional at best. 

It’s important to remember that the province announced last October that it planned to lift proof of vaccination requirements in most settings on Jan. 17 and to remove the mask mandate by March 28. The plan was temporarily sidetracked due to the Omicron variant and a massive surge in cases in December and January, but make no mistake, this was the plan all along.

At the time we thought the Oct. 22 announcement by Premier Doug Ford was premature – we still think removing the mask mandate on March 21 is a few weeks early – but provincial officials felt the efforts of Ontarians to get vaccinated and follow public health advice had gotten us to the point it was safe to implement a “cautious and careful approach to reopening.”

And while that reopening is now on, please be kind to businesses and individuals who continue to adhere to public health measures even if they’re no longer mandated. The pandemic is not yet over and COVID is still here, as much as we all want it to disappear.

But with the easing of restrictions, it is a fitting time thank the people who helped get us to this point. 

Thank you to the government officials – municipal, provincial and federal – who made the tough choices they felt would best protect the public. We certainly didn’t always agree with their decisions, but we believe the vast majority were trying to do the right thing.

Thank you to public health officials at all levels, notably Dr. Nicola Mercer and her team at WDGPH, without whom we certainly would have experienced more widespread illness and death.

Thanks to everyone who never stopped working at essential jobs to ensure Ontarians had everything we needed, despite the constantly changing restrictions and closures.

Thank you to the farmers and truckers who did everything they could to keep working and help keep food and other essential goods on store shelves.

Thank you to local businesses, which faced a long list of obstacles no one ever could have predicted. Your struggles were real and unrelenting, but please know your communities tried to support you as best we could – and we will continue to do so going forward.

Thank you to those who shared only facts and reliable news and did not spread COVID misinformation.

Thanks to everyone who followed public health guidelines and got vaccinated. You helped save lives and prevent serious illness for many people.

Lastly, our sincere thanks goes to doctors, nurses, PSWs and others working in the health care industry. I know for many of you the last two years have been the most difficult of your entire lives.

Some of you witnessed a career’s worth of death in 24 months and sacrificed far more than anyone ever expected, even in that line of work. 

On top of all that, some of you had to deal with verbal and physical abuse, inadequate PPE, unfair wages and a lack of mental health assistance, paid sick leave and other professional supports.

I know you feel drained and abandoned and will likely suffer the effects for years to come, with many of you leaving your profession forever. But please know the vast majority of people still support you 100%. 

Years from now, when we reflect on the people who deserve credit for getting us through COVID-19, at the top of the list will be the hardworking people in healthcare.

Despite the obstacles placed in front of you – by COVID itself but also by bureaucrats, the government and others – you stood tall, persevered, sacrificed and pushed yourselves to the brink to help everyone. 

It’s a debt we will never be able to repay, but like most Canadians, I will never forget it.

Thank you.