What the coronavirus shutdown might mean for Indigenous policy
Hill Times March 23 2020
Anybody else waking up each morning, and dreading picking up your phone? What else has changed while we tried to sleep?
COVID-19 is the defining challenge of our generation, and we’re only beginning to feel the effects. There will be health risks, economic loss, stock unpredictability, and the list goes on. As well, there will be the impacts of social isolation. Social distancing, or distant socializing, as some have termed it, may be the impactful learning for many as we realize just how important the daily interaction is for our mental health.
The shutdown of shops, restaurants, and businesses is necessary to protect our health system, elders and seniors. So we work from home, or we cope at home, or a mix of both. So many people are working or coping from home that the miraculous has occurred—the LRT is meeting demand!
But seriously, it’s a crisis that is almost beyond description, due to its breadth of impact across so many aspects of policy and daily life. We don’t even know the breadth and depth of impact in any one sector, much less the combined impact across sectors. We are faced with the stark realization that everything is interconnected.
In times of such widespread challenge, we have a choice. We can work together, or we can compete for scarce resources. Look to the few essential federal government employees working together to see evidence of what is possible. Or look to the numerous Indigenous organizations combining forces to ensure the most effective communications possible to combat COVID-19, which is being done for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, to see what is possible.
In this week, we will see the sense of “community” fundamentally change from “my community” to include all of us. Barriers drop when we are faced with a shared enemy. The perceived differences between my community and your community drop. People work together at times like these, because it’s the right thing to do. Canadians are already modelling this through the social media care-mongering groups. One can hope that political parties join the collaboration and drop the partisanship, and perhaps put the country ahead of the party? It’s likely that instances of hyper-partisanship during this crisis will be remembered for long after this year.
Here is the question. If it’s the right thing to do now, why not continue the collaboration after we get through this crisis?
Imagine a Parliament known for its cogent discussion and debate of ideas, in which Parliamentarians modelled how to agree and disagree with each other, and modelled respectful debate for our children?
Imagine a health system in which a national pharmacy program was built because the federal, provincial, and territorial governments continued their collaboration and skills to work well together.
Imagine a new Indigenous health system built across jurisdictions, even blatantly ignored jurisdictions, because this is what is needed to address the health needs for the population. And it occurs with Inuit, Métis, and First Nations combining strengths with provinces and territories based on full collaboration?
Imagine what we could do together. It’s all just a dream, says the naysayers. It’s too much to think about at this time, says the resistors. Yes, this is a crisis unlike any we have endured in recent generations.
We will get through it by protecting each other, by reimagining community to include all of us. And we will be changed by it, we will learn from it. There are all sorts of measures for contagion and the curve. Let’s also measure how contagious is community and collaboration. Be the carrier.