On March 11 Canadians woke up to witness a national mobilization the likes of which has not been seen in this nation since the outbreak of the Second World War. As the World Health Organization formally announced the global COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, a cascade of sports event cancellations, public and business office closures and a lockdown of most other gatherings swept across the nation—culminating in Monday’s announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada would be closing its borders to most international travellers, exempting only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, diplomats and US citizens (due to the close bonds between our nations)—and even then those travellers will be expected to self-isolate.
Across Manitoulin Island closures came like falling dominoes, even extending to some restaurants and food outlets. Despite some incidents of panic buying behaviour that left many people scratching their heads (the great toilet paper panic of 2020 comes swiftly to mind), Canadians can take great pride in the swift reaction of our leaders at all levels in taking action to help slow the impact of this new and pernicious coronavirus. Compared to much of the globe, things here have been moving at a speed that almost outpaces that of rumours—almost.
If there has ever been a moment in the digital age that highlights the importance of having reliable and credible sources of information it would be now.
A perusal of any social media platform will unearth a veritable cornucopia of rumour and conjecture masquerading as fact. In times such as this misinformation can prove to be, quite literally, fatal.
The Expositor, the Recorder and our collegial Ontario Community Newspapers Association publications go to great efforts to verify the facts before we go to print, as do most other traditional media outlets—this despite the tremendous pressure to be first to the fore with any breaking story.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Agency advises the public to take to heart the veritable bywords by which newspapers such as The Expositor live by: verify, verify, verify.
As our nation sets itself on a war footing to combat this invisible invader that has come to our shores there is much that we, as individual citizens, can do to support our friends and neighbours, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Take a moment out of your somewhat expanded free time in the coming weeks and (likely) months to check in on your neighbours and find out if they are in need. Call the sick and elderly, especially those without families (or perhaps even friends) on the Island to make sure they are okay, or perhaps even to help alleviate some of the isolating impacts of today’s social distancing.
There are plenty of ways we can assist those around us without even appreciably reducing our own security and health—if there was ever a time to step up to the plate, this would be it. To paraphrase that famous political rallying cry: now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country.
This is a battle that Canadians are well-suited to and one that we can and will win. It is not those of us who are hale and hearty that are at risk, such as is the case in most wars, but rather those who are weakest and most vulnerable.
Islanders are famed for stepping up to help those individuals and families in our community who have been devastated by those all-too-common tragedies of fire and illness. This particular charging horseman should not find us wanting.
Rather than falling victim to panic and rioting over items that are far from danger of becoming scarce, let us tap into that deep well of good will and nature that truly defines us as a nation and a community.
Our response to this crisis will come to define our generation for those who follow, let us ensure that as we face the challenges of the COVID-19, it is our humanity that defines us.