Letters to the editor.

Hearing the protests, not seeing the compassion

I felt compelled to write after reading Dr. Quinn’s opinion piece (“Hurt: A pandemic reflection,” The Interior News, Feb. 3, 2022) followed by Deb Meissner’s (“Understanding a massive outpouring of support,” Daresay, The Interior News, Feb. 3, 2022).

I have felt deep heartbreak about the current treatment of our health professionals after the initial support for them. Witnessing the truckers’ convoy intensified this heartbreak.

Deb observed what I did not. I did not see people of all faiths and personal opinions. As a white person myself, I saw only a sea of white faces. I saw large signs bearing a four-letter swear word. I saw signs calling for an elected Prime Minister (for whom I did not vote) to be deposed, and children waving little Canadian flags.

I did not support this convoy, but I do support the freedom for people to gather, to voice their opinions and to protest. With freedom comes responsibility to act without harm to others. I do not support the actions of this convoy which has now turned to a blockade in Ottawa and other parts of Canada.

I am seeing predominately white people bringing their fears and frustrations forward calling for “freedom” in one of the freest nations in the world.

A global pandemic requires a collective response. I have felt great pain watching people choose their personal freedom over care and concern for their community and their neighbours. We are being asked to do some simple things to keep each other safe.

We know the pandemic has placed a tremendous strain on our medical resources and has created suffering for staff who are working hard to try and meet the health needs of COVID patients. They are working beyond reasonable demands and face a significant impact on their mental health.

I am grateful that my generation and my young adult children are being asked to get a vaccine, wear a mask and maintain some social distance instead of being asked to leave home, take up arms and fight a war. Terrible as a pandemic is, my heart would break if my children had to engage in war as our previous generations had to do to face a collective threat.

The overwhelming whiteness of this convoy calls out our racism in Canada. Any attempt by Indigenous people to ask for justice and their freedom to be on their unceded territories is met quickly and often violently with calls for immediate arrests and even military action.

Do you have it within you to consider what is driving this anger and simmering violence? I feel the blockades have become a vehicle for people who hate as evidenced by swastikas, confederate flags and the uttering of homophobic and racial slurs.

Even if this is done by a minority of the protesters, they quickly become the centre of attention, instead of a reasonable protest about pandemic restrictions.

That is sadly what I saw as I watched the Smithers convoy. Can we get back to a sense of community and caring for our neighbours?

Our common ground is that the pandemic and its restrictions are exhausting, difficult and have indeed caused great suffering but they have saved lives and only just managed to prevent the collapse of our medical system. There will eventually be an end and an easing of restrictions.

There are a few simple rules to keep for a while longer, and in the meantime, let’s restore compassion, respect and gratitude for those who work in our hospitals saving our lives whether we are vaccinated or not.

In the words of Dr. Quinn, let’s not “other” anyone.

Pauline Mahoney

Smithers