COLUMN: Canadians looking south can feel proud but let’s not be smug

Sure things are messed up on the pandemic/racism front in the U.S. but we aren’t perfect

Well that was a Canada Day to remember. Or to forget.

No public fireworks display. No big party. For many of us a day to celebrate something, anything even, actually would have been what the doctor ordered. For some, however, there was nothing to celebrate at.

Families did gather for celebrations on July 1, and with somewhat expanded bubbles, many joined with friends, too.

The COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed some aspects of our lives, temporarily and permanently transformed others, and it has shifted our perspectives on a great many things.

As if trying to deal with the financial and health ramifications of the novel coronavirus wasn’t enough, we are all now facing the reality of taking a long, hard look at systemic racism in society and in our institutions.

Two giant subjects thrust upon us at the same time.

• READ MORE: Conversation about racism an opportunity to shut up and speak up

• READ MORE: COLUMN: The call for full-scale economic reopening is an argument to cull the herd

It’s easy to feel smug as a Canadian when one puts on a nationalist lens and sees how badly many U.S. states have done to (not) deal with COVID-19 in a culture of misinformation and denial. Then there is the treatment of minorities at the hands of some police in America.

So you think cops in Toronto have a problem with racism? You think Quebec’s pandemic response was bad? Take a look at Minneapolis or New York City on the former. And New York State and Texas on the latter.

But none of this is a competition and relativism is a risky game. We’ve had our own missteps in Canada, and we had a tragic lack of preparedness nationwide for this pandemic, according to some experts.

Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association said the country should have been better prepared and he made it clear recently in a number of media interviews that Canada had “not planned appropriately over time.”

A lack of a timely and co-ordinated response exacerbated the crisis, and continues to do so here in Canada. Yet Canadians can be easily distracted by POTUS Tweets, and clips of him complaining that too much testing was leading to too many cases.

On racism, it’s too easy to look south of the border and put your face in your palm. But every day right here in Canada on the streets and in hospitals and courtrooms and homeless shelters we see the legacy of the genocidal residential school system where the nation attempted, nearly successfully, to culturally erase the Indigenous population of this beautiful land, the land that those of use who are not Indigenous call Canada.

On the topic of COVID-19 in Canada, with a Libertarian lens, every government intervention feels like an attack on deeply held beliefs, even if the reason is to protect the most vulnerable.

On systemic racism in policing, that is a matter hotly up for debate to be sure, but that it is a debate at all is troubling.

Clearly we are doing better in Canada than they are in the U.S. on these subjects. Even the otherwise bombastic Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been almost statesmanlike as he has responded to the crisis in a way that has shocked his critics.

Politicians from opposition parties at the federal and provincial level here in B.C. have been similarly measured and mature, rarely looking to score cheap political points as the Trudeau Liberals in Ottawa and the Horgan New Democrats in Victoria do what they can to implement the recommendations by experts in public health to prevent our communities from serious infection levels as we have seen, and are still seeing, in other parts of the world.

The Conservatives in Ottawa and the BC Liberals may be increasingly critical of government, but that is their mandated role, and they have been uniquely Canadian in their restraint as those in power struggle with a pandemic the world hasn’t seen in 100 years.

It is pretty great to be Canadian and it can be agonizing to see some of the behaviour that goes on south of the border.

But we aren’t perfect, we shouldn’t be smug, we can always strive to be better.

Moving past Canada Day, let’s just say the cup is half full and, hopefully, we’ll see you on Canada Day 2021.

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