I’m very fortunate to live in a community where an effective, early public health response to the pandemic means we are now in “phase 3” of recovery — cautious re-opening and return to the world from sheltering in place, at about two thirds the level of pre-pandemic activity. We can (physically distanced and appropriately masked) take public transit, eat in restaurants, get a hair cut and enjoy the summer outdoors. We are free to choose.
It’s a shift that’s supported by about 70% of the population, according to public opinion poll ( although the larger the community’s population, the more anxious people were found to be). And we even more in agreement that keeping our border with the US closed for all but essential travel remains a good idea for the foreseeable future, as we anxiously watch the infection rates skyrocket for our neighbours to the south. As Trevor Noah recently observed, nobody thought that “flattening the curve” meant returning to April levels of virus activity across the continent.
Here above the 49th parallel, we are occasionally given to reflecting on the differences in culture and public discourse that can arise from differences in our fundamental national commitments — on the US side, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and on the Canadian side, to peace, order and good government. This is one of those times.
I think the reference to “good government” has been a particularly relevant factor in our different responses to the pandemic. Canadians certainly don’t accept everything our governments tell us or approve of everything our governments decide — but we also recognize that “they” are an extension of “us” and we as individuals share the responsibility for crisis response. This is a team effort and we all have to step up and put the whole ahead of the parts. We, together, are the ultimate expression of good government as we face the crisis together.
Our national history is also colonial, with all the tragic racism, sexism, genocide and land grabs that entailed. Canadians chose to evolve our relationships with the colonizing powers and eventually repatriated our constitution in the 20th century, a sharp contrast to the revolutionary approach pursued in the US in the 1770s.