Suicide deaths have declined during the pandemic, but experts warn the toll might be yet to come

While the calamitous nature of the pandemic sent Canadians’ stress and anxiety levels soaring, it may actually have had an opposite effect on suicide deaths. Data from across the country show the numbers of deaths from suicides actually decreased in 2020.

The trauma from a year of lockdowns and social distancing — lost jobs, broken relationships, bankrupt businesses — has been well-documented in the mental health statistics.

Polling data from the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use in October

found that more than half of Canadians were dealing with some sort mental health illness. Calls to Canada Suicide Prevention Service were up 200 per cent in 2020 over 2019. To cope with the stress, loneliness or boredom,

Canadians were drinking more, smoking more and doing more drugs.

But there was one surprising bright spot amid the data. Suicide rates were actually on the decline in many provinces in 2020, during the height of the pandemic.

Suicides are a complex issue, however, and experts caution that the downward trend in death rates in 2020 does not tell the whole story. As unusual as 2020 was in every way, it may also be an unusual year for suicide deaths.

Similar trends have been seen in other times of major trauma, say experts, such as during wars and natural disasters. The actual toll of the pandemic on mental health and suicide rates may not be fully realized until years from now.

Nevertheless, the declines are clear. In British Colombia, there were 408 suicide deaths in 2020, down from 651 in 2019. Alberta had 490 suicides in 2020, a decline from 601 suicide deaths in 2019. In Saskatchewan there were 134 suicide deaths in 2020, down from 206 in 2019. In Nova Scotia, where there has been a declining trend for the past two years, there were 119 suicide deaths in 2020, compared to 137 in 2019, and 140 in 2018.

Suicides in Ontario have been on the rise in past years. According to the province’s coroner’s office, there were 1,502 suicide deaths in 2017, 1,569 in 2018, and a slight dip in 2019 to 1,553. Some deaths are still being investigated. The data for 2020 is still being analyzed, says Stephanie Rea, issues manager with the Office of the Chief Coroner, but based on preliminary information, there was no observed increase in the number of suicides during the period between January and June 2020 compared to the same six-month period in previous years.

Suicide deaths have generally held steady in Canada, averaging around 4,000 a year. Of those, 90 per cent were people already suffering from a mental health illness. In further tragic statistics, for every suicide death, there are 25 to 30 attempts. Nunavut has the highest suicide rate in Canada.

While acknowledging a decline in suicide deaths during the pandemic, Dr. Tyler Black, a psychiatrist who specializes in the study of suicide at the University of British Columbia, said it cannot be assumed the trend will continue.

“We actually don’t have the ability to predict suicide rates, it’s not in our ability either individually or as a group. What’s going to happen next year with respect to suicide numbers, there’s not a straight line between distress and suicide,” he said.

One possible explanation for the decrease in suicide deaths in 2020, Black suggested, was the “coming together effect” — the increased sense of community and the charity response during the height of the pandemic.

“When there’s a common social cause, and people are being more charitable, more focused on helping each other, there is a feeling of being connected in the community, and the suicide rates may come down,” he said.

More people working from home, and spending more time with children and family, and students staying home from school and experiencing less bullying, could be other factors, he said.

Mental health advocates also sprung into action during in the pandemic to raise the alarm bells to potential problems and call on governments for additional funding.

On Sept. 10, 2020, World Suicide Prevention Day, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health launched the provocative Not Today suicide ad campaign to open discussions about suicide and raise public awareness and education for suicide prevention efforts.

Dr. David Gratzer is the attending psychiatrist from CAMH in Toronto. He also cautions against drawing any conclusions about such a complex mental health issue from the early data.

“We often think about suicide rates as being tied to general distress, but suicide has many factors, it is very complicated. We know in times of war suicide rates actually tend to go down. In times of economic recession and depression, suicide rates tend to go up,” Gatzner said.

Deaths from suicide also take time to be investigated, Gatzner said, and he cautions the early data from provinces may not fully reflect the pandemic’s toll.

Susan Bondy, at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at University of Toronto, is an epidemiologist who looks at health data. She agrees it might be too soon to fully assess the impact of the pandemic on self harm and suicide deaths.

It’s not uncommon to get a dip in suicide rates at the population level during a crisis or a natural disaster, she said, “which can have a rebound or a delayed effect.”

There are a number of different pathways to suicide, she explained. Those with underlying mental illness, whose suicides can be more a matter of impulse or short-term triggers, may have had those pathways altered during the pandemic because of less mobility.

As well, personal, emotional, even financial trauma from the pandemic may take some time to seed before it results in a suicide death.

In other words, the real and tragic consequences of the pandemic may still be unfolding.

If you are in distress, contact the help centre nearest you or the Canadian Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 or, in Quebec, at 1-866-277-3553. In an emergency call 911 or contact your local emergency services provider.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Some young people to get COVID vaccine months early thanks to program for apartment-dwelling seniors

Wynford Place in Toronto, where about 68 per cent of the occupants are over 65 years old.

For young people at a few Toronto condo and apartment buildings, sharing the space with a lot of senior citizens could mean getting the COVID-19 vaccine months ahead of time.

In an innovative pilot project, health agencies in the city are targeting multi-unit buildings that are not officially seniors residences, but happen to house mostly older people.

Teams will visit the sites and give COVID shots either in a central location or at the residents’ own units.

Under phase one of Ontario’s vaccine rollout plan, the injections are earmarked for seniors living in nursing homes and other “congregate-living” facilities, health-care workers, indigenous people and adults over 80. Phase two, scheduled to start next month and last until July, will include adults 60 to 79 in order of age, people who have to work outside their homes and other high-risk groups. Those under 60 would be eligible later.

But in condominiums or apartment blocks that a team from Toronto’s North York General Hospital plans to visit, all adult residents will be eligible for vaccination, regardless of age.

The staff from North York General and the affiliated Toronto North York Health Partners figured it makes sense to blanket-immunize complexes where seniors live in high concentrations, said James Schembri, who heads the hospital’s mobile vaccine clinic program.

“Our goal is to create herd immunity among the people in that building,” he said Friday. “Even though some residents are younger, they could still bring COVID into the building and pose a risk to others.”

A condo tower in the city’s Don Mills neighbourhood celebrated recently the fact it’s hosting a mobile clinic next Wednesday.

In a note to residents headed “More great news,” the board at Wynford Place said it was “thrilled to announce” that either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine would be available to anyone “18 years of age or older.”

In fact, about 68 per cent of the building’s occupants are over 65 and 30 per cent are over 80, noted Schembri.

The province’s COVID-19 science advisory table

recommended this month

targeting vaccine to what are called “naturally occurring retirement communities” — NORCs.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and member of the advisory body, said Friday he has no problem with the relatively few young people who happen to live at the same addresses getting vaccinated now.

“Some public health units are given more vaccines because they’re disproportionately impacted and there is flexibility in the system to vaccinate as they see the need,” he said.

“(But) when you look at the math, it’s not going to amount to taking a huge number of vaccines away from high-risk people,” said Bogoch. “How many 18 year olds are going to be vaccinated in that NORC? Maybe zero.”

The strategy is part of a wider thrust to essentially take the vaccine to where older, more at-risk people live, rather than expect them to come to mass vaccination clinics, said Dr. Rebecca Stoller, head of North York General’s vaccine program.

On Friday, for instance, the mobile clinic was at a community centre that caters to Russian Jewish seniors, and came equipped with Russian translators.

In residential buildings, some of the vaccine is being administered literally door to door, with teams wheeling around a cart and injecting residents in their doorways, she said.

“We’re learning as we go,” said Stoller. “This hasn’t been done before.”

The science advisory body identified 489 buildings in Toronto where at least 30 per cent of residents, totaling at least 50 people, were 65 or over. That’s about 100,000 individuals in all. Of those, 286 buildings are in areas with a high rate of COVID-19 infection.

Holding mobile clinics in those places would help people who have trouble getting around and might be reluctant to visit a centralized vaccination clinic, the group said.

• Email: tblackwell@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

BoC governor Tiff Macklem objected to daycare in his neighbourhood as not keeping with its 'heritage nature'

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff-Macklem.

The governor of the Bank of Canada, who recently gave a speech lauding the importance of child care to the economic recovery from COVID-19, campaigned against having a daycare across the street from a $2.5 million home he and his wife owned in Toronto.

Documents obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa news outlet, show that Tiff Macklem, who became the governor of the Bank of Canada in June 2020, and his wife, Rosemary, both wrote to a Toronto committee, arguing against having the nursery in their Cabbagetown neighbourhood back in 2018.

The project proposal has gone through a lengthy review and appeals process, with the Toronto Local Appeal Body, a quasi-judicial body that makes decisions regarding local planning, allowing most of the proposed zoning variances to proceed in a January 2021 decision. That decision upholds a previous decision granting approval to the child-care centre.

The governor and his wife sold their home in July 2020, property records show, shortly before an interim approval of the daycare was granted.

In his letter, Macklem said 80 children would be at the daycare, about 100 people total, including staff. “This site is simply not appropriate for an operation of this scale,” Macklem wrote. “The modifications proposed to the building and side are not keeping with the residential and heritage nature of the neighbourhood.”

Macklem, who was a private citizen at the time, also wrote that dropping off and picking up children would “create serious traffic problems,” and would “be not only disruptive but also poses a safety risk.” Plus, he adds, food deliveries and garbage disposal would require truck traffic “not in keeping with the residential zoning of the neighbourhood.”

But he did say there is a real need for daycare in Toronto. His issue, in this case, he said, was with the size of the proposed facility.

“Governor Macklem is a strong supporter of early childhood education, and of daycare facilities in urban neighbourhoods, including the one in which he lived in Toronto,” said a statement from the Bank of Canada.

In February 2021, in a speech for the Edmonton and Calgary Chambers of Commerce, Macklem spoke about the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and what a recovery might entail, from technological change to the effects of e-commerce.

But, Macklem also took a moment to discuss child care.

“For families with young children, the closures of schools and daycares has also had a profound ability on parents to work,” said Macklem. “The burden of child care tends to fall disproportionately on women.”

He said “it’s reasonable to expect that more working mothers will rejoin the labour force as schools and daycares reopen permanently.”

“It will be important to support this recovery and facilitate this return to work,” he said.

Later in the speech, he argued “increasing access to child care and reducing its cost will help more women return to the labour force and remain there.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

New photos show the massive gridlock caused by megaship stuck in Suez Canal

Hundreds of ships are anchored on either side of the Suez Canal, as the The Ever Given, one of the largest megaships in the world, refuses to budge.

The Ever Given — a megaship that’s longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall (324 meters) — remains jammed across the Suez Canal, despite more than three days of attempts to free it.

The vessel could take at least until next Wednesday, March 31, to un-embed, more than a week after it ground into the canal walls, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, the line-up stretches at least 300 container ships long due to the bottleneck, according to its research.

New satellite images show in stark detail the extent of the congestion, along the vital maritime trade route located between the African continent and Sinai Peninsula.

 Hundreds of cargo ships remain anchored as the disruption drags into its fourth day

Normally, an estimated US$10 billion worth of goods would pass each day through the waterway, which connects the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. More than 15 per cent of global shipping traffic moves through the canal, which is the fastest seaborne route between Asia and Europe.

According to canal authorities, up to 20,000 cubic meters of sand must be removed to free the bow of the ship. Salvage crews from Norway and Japan have been called in to assist with the extraction, which requires re-floating the 200,000 ton ship.

 Stranded container ship Ever Given is seen after it ran aground, in Suez Canal, Egypt

To date, dredgers and at least 10 tugboats have been brought in to dislodge the ship and pull it away.

Shipping companies are increasingly going around the Cape of Good Hope, which could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to fuel costs and more than 10 days to their voyage.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy told the Financial Times that it has received concerned calls from shipping companies worried about the threat of piracy if they divert shipments around the Cape of Good Hope as several freighters have already done.

With files from Reuters and Bloomberg

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Ivison: Ottawa’s weekly omnishambles, from the carbon tax to an overheated housing market

Join columnist John Ivison and guests Marcella Munro and Andrew Balfour to dissect the week’s political follies over a cup of cheer.

This week John, Andrew and Marcella discuss the options for Conservative premiers, now the Supreme Court has affirmed that Justin Trudeau’s carbon pricing regime is here to stay. They also look at the impact on Trudeau’s “feminist” government of the sexual misconduct in the military issue, and the prospect of the exemption on capital gains tax on principal residences being removed in next month’s budget.

Watch the video below for the latest episode of Ivison.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Ivison: Ottawa’s weekly omnishambles, from the carbon tax to an overheated housing market

Join columnist John Ivison and guests Marcella Munro and Andrew Balfour to laugh about the week’s political follies over a cup of cheer.

This week John, Andrew and Marcella discuss the options for Conservative premiers, now the Supreme Court has affirmed that Justin Trudeau’s carbon pricing regime is here to stay. They also look at the impact on Trudeau’s “feminist” government of the sexual misconduct in the military issue, and the prospect of the exemption on capital gains tax on principal residences being removed in next month’s budget.

Watch the video below for the latest episode of Ivison.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Hard drop in Newfoundland premier’s approval rating after calling pandemic election: Poll

The 14th Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Andrew Furey addresses the audience following the swearing-in ceremony on the grounds of Government House in St. John's on Wednesday, August 19, 2020.

It turns out calling an election in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been the inadvertent nail in the political coffin for Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey, according to a new poll.

The poll surveyed 5,267 Canadians between March 2 and  11 on their attitudes toward their premiers (with a national margin of error of 1.4 per cent).

It found that Furey took the largest tumble in approval ratings — 23 percentage points, after peaking at a rating of 63 per cent in December 2020.

John Wright, executive vice president of Maru Public Opinion, attributed the drastic fall to Furey’s decision to call an election in January in the middle of the pandemic, buoyed by his high approval ratings in December.

But an unexpected surge in COVID-19 cases in the week leading up to the election forced officials to delay and then cancel all in-person voting across the province.

The election date had since been pushed to March 25 and was entirely conducted via mail-in ballot. The results are to be announced on Saturday.

“It’s clear that there was a significant portion of the electorate who was really upset over having the election during COVID-19,” Wright said. “And then the complications that have taken place in the existing time frame to get the vote, it’s a serious warning to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or anyone else who may wish to pull the trigger and go to an election.”

Wright says it’s hard to predict how the election will turn out for Furey, who is now has a 40 per cent approval rating, and his political opponent, Conservative Leader “Ches” Crosbie.

“This is an example of where a politician decides, buoyed by his early nerve, that he could get through this and treat it like any other campaign, but it has clearly caused problems in him possibly holding on to the vote now,” Wright said.

According to the new poll, Furey ranks third last in popular support among premiers, alongside Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who holds an approval rating of 37 per cent and 39 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe tops the list with an approval rating of 65 per cent, closely followed by the B.C. Premier John Horgan and Quebec Premier Francois Legault at 64 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.

“For most of these premiers, the only opponent they really have is COVID-19,” Wright said. “And the ability to get the vaccines and have it organized is really their most pressing issue nowadays.”

Which means how each premier responds to the pandemic and the vaccine rollout directly shapes their province’s opinion of them. Pallister for example, took a hit in his ratings in December, after he ordered a COVID-19 lockdown. “And he hasn’t necessarily recovered from that,” Wright said. “Neither has Jason Kenney who’s got a lot more baggage than just COVID-19.”

Moe on the other hand has “done a good job in the categories that are necessary nowadays” resulting in his high ratings, Wright said. Unlike several of its counterparts, Saskatchewan has reported fewer than 200 new cases per day and is in phase two of its immunization scheme, which is focused on vaccinating the general population between ages 18 and 69.

“If you look at the other end of the country where Andrew Fury is, it’s clear that the biggest threat to his premiership is COVID-19. (He) made decisions around it, he’s paying a price for it,” Wright said.

Surprisingly enough, despite recording some of the highest provincial daily cases in the country, Legault is one of the few premiers to consistently receive some of the highest approval ratings, ranging between 56 and 76 per cent.

It comes down to the difference between the Quebecois culture and approach to handling the pandemic and that of the rest of the country.

“(Legault) and (the rest of the province) have been from the outset, the first ones to say, let’s open up the economy and get going. They’re very counterintuitive to the rest of the country that has imposed longstanding lockdowns,” he said.

That’s not to say that the premier has remained immune to criticism. His ratings, which peaked in June 2020, have taken a dip in recent months, primarily due to issues with accelerating a vaccine rollout — “which is not necessarily his problem, because it’s coming from the federal government,” Wright said.

However “(Legault’s) connection to people in Quebec is unprecedented,” Wright said, one that reflects a mentality very different to that in any other province.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s approval rating has remained low at 48 per cent — five percentage points lower than recorded in December. Blaine Higgs, premier of New Brunswick, has inched up in his ratings by one percentage point, recording a 57 per cent approval rating.

Newly installed Nova Scotia Premier Ian Rankin has also recorded a relatively low rating of 41 per cent.

“Every part in the country has a different context. But they’re all dealing with a common front and that is COVID-19,” Wright said. “And the decisions they make around COVID impact their popularity significantly. And while they’ve all come down from where they were on high heights, some have actually caused even greater downfall by their own personal decisions.”

Furey could still win the election, according to Wright: “The trajectory for winning this election is unfavourable but not unsalvageable.”

But winning would mean having to plan for tougher days ahead in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Whoever wins the election must not only craft a recovery plan that lays out a new foundation for the future but delivers a much needed elixir to all — hope,” Wright said. “There are tough days ahead to reckon all that has occurred, but rising above politics to create a collective resolve on how to move forward will be paramount.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Birds make you as happy as money, study finds

A robin bird in the snow.

What’s better: a backyard full of birds or a pay raise? When it comes to happiness, a new study suggests the richness of bird species holds more value.

While it’s no secret that being rich takes much of the pressure off our day-to-day lives, researchers in this month’s

Ecological Economics

journal

found

living near natural surroundings, especially in areas with more species of birds, had a closer link to life satisfaction than income.

Analyzing data from 26,000 adults across 26 European countries, compiled from the 2012 European Quality of Life Survey, the researchers conclude that diversity in nature, especially of birds, had the greatest influence on people’s moods.

“The happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species,” said the study’s lead author, Joel Methorst, a doctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, the iDiv, and the Goethe University in Frankfurt,

in a press release

.

People were just over 50 per cent happier with a 10 per cent rise in bird species than an extra 10 per cent increase to their income, the study found.

The findings paint nature as more than just a useful distraction to escape depressing headlines, instead revealing that our connection to the environment goes beyond material pursuits.

“We also examined the socio-economic data of the people that were surveyed, and, much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as is their income,” said Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese, director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, professor at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, and member of the iDiv.

It turns out, being around 14 more bird species was the equivalent to the participants earning an extra $190 a month, based on an income of $1,837.

Diversity of bird species is among the best indications of the overall health of the environment, the study’s authors point out. This, and the sights and sounds of birds themselves, contribute to their positive influence, they say.

 A flock of birds gathers on a tree as night falls in Lisbon, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020.

Pandemic-imposed isolation has increasingly driven people to 

spend time in parks and natural areas

. As the world returns to some sense of normalcy, the study is a reminder of the important role environment, and not just material consumption, plays in people’s wellbeing.

Growing threats to bird habitats will have an impact on humans as well, being demonstrable in the loss of joy, the authors argue.

The protection of natural landscapes is a “very worthwhile investment in human well-being,” they write.

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

Hip-hop master Maestro Fresh Wes has moved to Saint John, 'New Brunswick, baby!'

Maestro Fresh Wes acknowledges that his recent cross-country move is something of an “anomaly,” but he’s still slightly baffled by the attention it’s generated.

Last fall, the rapper and actor — the “godfather of Canadian hip hop” — moved with his wife and son from Toronto to Saint John, N.B. to be closer to family — in-laws, grandparents, aunts.

“Not New York, not New Jersey, not New Mexico, but New Brunswick baby!” he said in an interview Thursday. “(People are) like, ‘Whoa’. But it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.”

“It’s a different time. There’s no point of reference for what to do or not to do,” he added. “This is a time of uncertainty and the main thing is to protect your family…. And have some type of normalcy, and the city of Saint John has been beautiful for that, for me. Probably the friendliest place I’ve seen.”

 Maestro’s first album, Symphony in Effect.

Born Wesley Williams, Maestro is considered a hip-hop pioneer. He’s been nominated for 13 Junos, winning two, including the inaugural Juno for Rap Recording of the Year in 1991. His 1989 debut album, Symphony in Effect, was the first album by a Black Canadian artist to be certified platinum in Canada and contained the hit single Let Your Backbone Slide, one of the most successful and influential Canadian songs.

And there have been some Maritime connections. The first song from his debut album, Drop the Needle, contains a sample from the Prince Edward Island band Haywire. He also played his very first show at the Halifax Forum, in 1990, and in 2017 received an honorary diploma at a convocation held in the same building.

Born in Toronto, Maestro played the halftime show when the Raptors received their NBA championship rings in 2019. Now he’s living in southern New Brunswick and answering questions from people curious about his decision to uproot.

“I’m Canadian. I just moved,” he said before laughing. “It’s really not that much of a big deal. It’s just the fact that I’m a recording artist from Toronto and I’ve done some cool things. But if you think family first, this is what you do — you make moves like this…. I think we made the right decision, definitively. I’ve been blessed.”

Both Maestro’s parents immigrated to Toronto from Guyana in the 1960s, further proof this move is hardly worthy of note. “They moved from the West Indies. They got on a plane and crossed the water, man. You know what I’m saying? That’s a travel. Me, I just drove from Toronto.”

And the move wasn’t “much of a shock” because he had spent a lot of time on the East Coast.

When he played a high school teacher on the CBC series Mr. D, filming took place in Halifax and he regularly drove to Saint John to see family.

“So I’m pretty familiar with the Bay of Fundy,” he said. “The only thing I wasn’t familiar with was the winter. In Toronto, when it’s March, it’s pretty much over. If you get a warm spell it’s pretty much over. I learned here if you get a warm spell, it’s not over. Matter of fact, it might get colder.”

As one John Robb warned on Twitter: “‘Just let it slide’ is going to have brand new meaning for the Maestro when he walks on those Saint John sidewalks.”

Having lived in Toronto, Vancouver and New York, Maestro is finding amusement in the realities of a smaller city. “You can bump into someone at the Tim Hortons and then later you see them at the Irving,” he said, laughing. “And then you see them at Deluxe fish and chips.”

“I’ve been here for a little while. People are starting to recognize me more. It’s kinda funny to go into convenience stores or Sobeys or Tim Hortons and hearing people say, ‘I knew that was you! You let the cat of the bag now Maestro, I knew that was you all the time!’ People are very friendly here.”

Some know him from his new Friday night radio show, Maestro in the Maritimes. “I’m playing some bangers. It’s been well received,” he said. “A lot of Maritime artists are getting some spins, which is great for the region.”

And then there’s his soon-to-be published children’s book, Stick to Your Vision: Young Maestro Goes to School, which he says is an ode to under-appreciated teachers. He was “blessed” to have had inspiring teachers, especially while in elementary school. They taught him (including by having him recite poetry) that it’s OK to be nervous when public speaking. “That helped me with my career,” he said. “They’re the ones who helped mould me to be the artist I am today.”

He said he hopes that message will find an audience, especially during the pandemic.

“This is the situation right now: Nobody is 100 per cent OK. We’re all in this together,” he said. “You can be by the Bay of Fundy or by the Pacific Ocean. It doesn’t matter, man. We’re all here for a minute and let’s see how much positive impact we can make on the world.”

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques

It’s natural to be skeptical, but vaccine IDs are here to stay. Get used to it

If you are one of the lucky Canadians who has gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, you have a shiny new card stating that you are officially among the vaccinated. By mid-summer, we can fully expect that if you want to go to the movies, get your hair cut or grab a pint, businesses are going to start requiring you to flash evidence of your having gotten the shot. A class system engineered by Big Pharma or a common sense way to get back to normal?

Watch the latest Everything Should Be Better video or read the transcript below. 

Now I hear you: It’s natural to be skeptical whenever the government rolls out some new ID requirement. Every biometric ID card just brings us one step closer to those blinky crystal hand things in Logan’s Run that tell you when the state has decided it’s your turn to die.

But rage all you want against having to constantly carry evidence that you got a shot, because there are some very grassroots reasons why it’s not going anywhere.

First of all, vaccine IDs are an initiative whose loudest boosters have been small business. For you see, governments have mostly been happy to address this pandemic with perpetual, economy-destroying lockdowns. It’s been the restaurants, the coffee shops and the hair salons that have been pushing back with a middle way: Let us open, but give us a way to ensure we’re not becoming bogs of disease.

 In this file photo taken on February 12, 2021 a healthcare worker presents her additional Covid-19 vaccinations card after a vaccination with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at the university hospital in Halle/Saale, eastern Germany, on February 12, 2021.

This is different than most other identification. You think bars like being forced to scrutinize IDs, and risk their license if they slip up just one time and serve a minor? Not to disparage Canada’s upstanding firearm retailers, but I’m sure they wouldn’t object to just a tad less paperwork when they’re selling someone another Western single-action to gather dust in their gun safe.

Second of all, we should be incentivizing people to get vaccinated. Here’s how you don’t stage a mass-vaccination campaign: You urge everyone to get the shot, but you still say everyone should mask-up and social distance for the foreseeable future. Wrong! You tell people that if they get the shot, they can get back to normal and here’s a special card to allow you to do that.

 A medical worker prepares vaccination card for a person receiving a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Jabra Hospital for Emergency and Injuries in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on March 9, 2021.

Also, screening Canadians for health reasons isn’t as unprecedented as you might think. Do you work in healthcare or at an old folks home? Chances are you’ll need the flu shot if you want to keep your job. Want to be a pilot? No dice if you have epilepsy or get

serious asthma attacks

. Do you work with monkeys, spend a lot of time in Mexico or you’re a man who has sex with men sometimes?

Sorry, you can’t give blood

: All of those groups have been tagged as being disproportionately likely to carry bloodborne diseases.

Also, Canada routinely turns away immigrants on the grounds of “

medical inadmissibility

,” meaning essentially that they’re sick and we don’t want them. If you have syphilis, you’re criminally insane or even if you’ve just got a pre-existing condition that’s going to cost our healthcare system too much, you can’t get

one of these

.

Canada is not in the habit of creating underclasses of people based on their health status: There are loads of discrimination lawsuits predicated on someone’s physical or mental health.

 Susan Maxwell-Trumble holds up a vaccination card at South Shore University Hospital after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on March 03, 2021 in Bay Shore, New York.

Canada

is

in the habit of screening your health status when the material safety of others is on the line. And that’s absolutely the case with COVID-19: Hold a music festival, and all you need is someone with COVID to turn it into a superspreader event.

But here’s the bad news about vaccine IDs: People are absolutely going to screw this up and go too far. Remember the no-fly-list, that perfectly reasonable strategy to keep would-be terrorists off airliners? Within five minutes anybody with the last name Muhammed couldn’t so much as catch a Porter Airlines puddle-jumper.

Just because vaccine IDs are rational late pandemic policy doesn’t mean they’re not going to be at the centre of some tyrannous nonsense in the coming months. My prediction:

  1. Some overzealous city council is going to start requiring vaccine cards for some perfectly safe activity, like walking though a park.
  2. People who can’t get the vaccine for legitimate medical reasons are going to be absolutely screwed over by red tape.
  3. Some crypto-fascist neighbourhood association, probably in Toronto, is going to go on the warpath about requiring mandatory vaccines just for living in the area.

So get ready for all that. But as usual, the problem isn’t the policy, it’s the inevitable poor application.

• Email: thopper@postmedia.com

| Twitter:

Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques