The COVID-19 crisis has focused world attention like nothing in our memory. It’s been called a war, a pandemic, a plague, an economic disaster, and an excuse for power-grabs by governments around the world. There have been deaths, dislocations of economies and disruptions of political processes.
Canadians have a right to know if our federal government has been proactive in protecting its citizens and in providing the advice and services we need to minimize the damage. A review of government responses to the changing stats show an alarming self-inflicted vulnerability, now obvious as the number of infected Canadians rises. China’s misleading media releases from the early days of the crisis until now have contributed to the confusion, concealing both the magnitude of the threat and their failed response to it. In hindsight, what could Canada have done better?
We could have—and should have—closed our borders earlier, especially to travellers from China. The U.S. issued an order on January 31, banning all foreign nationals who had set foot in China in the previous 14 days from entering the country. It also imposed a mandatory 14-day period of self-isolation for any American citizen returning from Hubei province. Meanwhile, Canada’s Prime Minister continued to reject the idea of closing the border to travellers from China, calling such an idea “racist”. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, continued to defend the World Health Organization’s (WHO) advice against “. . . any kind of travel and trade restrictions . . .” As late as February 20, Canada’s Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu said, “ . . . the risk to Canadians remains low . . .“, and continued to place all the responsibility on individuals to self-identify and self-isolate. On February 26, Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer said, “We have contained the virus.” The Prime Minister and his top Health officials continued to count on self-diagnosis of foreign travellers and providing “information” to them at the airports.
On March 13, Justin Trudeau defended his decision not to restrict entry to travellers from China, (as the U.S. had done) he said: “We did not. We were able to manage it in a way that allowed for control and a non-spread of the virus . . . our public health officials are giving us the right recommendations for Canada. ” Three days later, Canada began to limit entry for foreign travellers.
We should have closed our borders to illegal border-crossers long ago, before COVID-19 even began. On March 17, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair confirmed that Canada would continue to receive people crossing into Canada from the U.S. at “irregular” border crossing points like the infamous Roxham Road in Quebec, where pedestrians with suitcases and backpacks simply walk into Canada. “We are now making separate arrangements for those individuals to be placed in appropriate shelter . . . ” Long a source of frustration for law-abiding Canadians, the kid gloves treatment of illegals now raises new concerns with the possibility of cross-border transmission of the virus. Three days later, PM Trudeau announced that irregular migrants will be turned back at the border. Questions about Roxham Road and related refugee issues remain.
We should never have trusted the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, to tell the truth. Much of the world pandemic and the accompanying economic devastation could have been avoided or minimized if the CCP had been more transparent. The CCP seems to have convinced officials at the WHO that the virus is under control in China but few others around the world believe their numbers. Why should we? When Dr. Li Wenliang first warned his fellow doctors about the newly-discovered virus that had already killed several people, he and seven other whistleblowers were arrested “for spreading rumours”. Dr. Li wrote his letter exposing the virus on December 30. The CCP did not announce the medical emergency until January 20. Dr. Li died in February of COVID-19. By the time he died, the city of Wuhan was under lockdown. Against all the evidence, the CCP denied human-to-human transmission for weeks. Since then, China has claimed to be in control, but the numbers of dead they claim are far below the numbers of cremation urns being delivered to funeral homes…
We must demand that China release all of the coronavirus research records from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control. There are dozens of possible angles in regard to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan. Some focus on the “wet meat markets” where wild animals are purchased for food. There is speculation about the transmission of the virus from horseshoe bats through pangolins to humans at these markets. That is possible. However, it is also known that the Wuhan bio-lab was studying a range of coronaviruses collected from horseshoe bats. It does not require much imagination to postulate that one of these coronaviruses—whether naturally-occurring or engineered—could have escaped from the lab. The research records would tell us much. Far from transparently sharing the information it has, China has actually expelled Western reporters from Wuhan, including those from sympathetic, left-wing outlets like the New York Times. What is China hiding? Is it the source of the virus or the spiralling death toll which they deny?
We must not allow the COVID-19 crisis to cloud our judgment. Emergency measures are being taken by countries around the globe, including the U.S. and Canada. Politicians who are normally concerned about debt levels are approving bailout funds of unbelievable proportions. Shuttered businesses and lost tax revenues will have devastating impacts far into the future. Citizens are suddenly accepting restrictions on their movements and habits that would have been unimaginable only one month ago. While we’re all willing to do our part to contain the virus, we cannot let a spirit of fear grip our hearts. Joe Boot presents a very wise perspective in this article at the Ezra Institute.
We respectfully ask for the resignation of Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. We don’t often call for the resignation of government officials. The Prime Minister and others certainly share responsibility for Canada’s slow response. It’s true that few saw the dire nature of the COVID-19 outbreak in early January, largely because of China’s cover-up. But, by the beginning of February, the US had closed its borders to travellers from China, and Dr. Tam was still insisting that handing out pamphlets at the airport was enough. That naiveté continued through February and half of March. Her complete trust in the now-discredited advice from the WHO, and her misguided praise of China’s response, allowed the virus to hit Canada very hard. The major lockdowns after the pandemic struck cannot make up for lost opportunities in the early stages.
As we go through this together, the CHP will continue to press for transparency and responsible government actions to defend the health and security of all Canadians.