CAERS Substack Special Article
CAERS Special Article
Sometimes we use powerful words for dramatic effect. The problem is that when we overuse them, they can lose much of their impact. ‘Crisis’ may be one of those words. It seems to me that its use has increased during my lifetime to the point where I often roll my eyes when I hear it. Which is unfortunate, because although a lot of so-called crises end up not being crises at all, some do. In fairness, one of the reasons that some crises don’t seem to materialize is that we have prepared a plan ahead of time and instituted it well enough that the crisis dissipates so quickly that it is hard to recognize it as such.
Regardless of one’s perspective on the pandemic, I think most of us would agree that its impact on Canadian society qualifies as a crisis for varying, and perhaps even conflicting, reasons. Given that we are nearing the end of the third year of the pandemic, it seems reasonable enough to ask if part of the reason for the severity and prolongation is that we were not well enough prepared to deal with it. Did those managing the pandemic have a plan in place and did they follow it?
Any true crisis is labelled that because it has profound and potentially long-lasting effects on multiple crucial areas of our collective lives. So, there are certain commonalities that all crises share, and for that reason the preparation necessary for one generally holds true for all of them, even though the details may differ. The truth is that in Canada, both provincially and federally, thousands of professionals experienced in a wide variety of crises had already developed extremely detailed and well-thought-out plans to deal with virtually every crisis imaginable that this country could face. Did the authorities implement these previously developed policies and procedures well during the pandemic? The simple answer is ‘no’; in fact, they mostly ignored them.
Which is quite tragic. But all is not lost. There is still time for us to assess the situation and evaluate how we could have, and should have, done better. Much better.
To do so will require great courage, transparency, honesty and wisdom. Are Canadians up to such a daunting task? I think that we are, because we have faced similar challenges in the past and we overcame them remarkably well. And given that the pandemic is a crisis in every sense of the word and is still ongoing, our future hangs in the balance. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do the best we can.
That is why I believe that the only way to accomplish that task is through an independent National Public Inquiry into the entire pandemic management; partly to correct problems that still remain, and partly to learn for the next crisis, pandemic or otherwise. In the words of Albert Einstein: ‘Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity’. And we are not an insane country.
There is a process afoot for such an inquiry to be undertaken. Irrespective of one’s views on anything pandemic-related, we should all agree that in any crisis this complex there is inevitably much to learn, and therefore opportunities for growth. This process should not be allowed to become a witch-hunt; that will only be counterproductive to revealing the details that must be made known so that appropriate corrections can be made.
Canada is one of the most evolved and civilized countries on the planet. We did not get here by accident. Let us continue our tradition of deep and respectful dialogue that has made us a role model throughout the world. There is no time to waste because crises seldom give us much notice; that’s another reason we call them crises.
We may think that this crisis is unique, but I suspect that it is not and a closer inspection will reveal that we have much to improve upon before the next one arrives.
J. Barry Engelhardt MD (retired) MHSc (bioethics)
CAERS Health Intake Facilitator
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