If you are like me, you are likely wondering what this 2021 will look like. A short twelve months ago we embarked optimistically into our new decade as a province with unbounded confidence towards our economy and way of life. But our world has changed drastically since then. The simple, happy lives we freely lived have fallen victim to a never before seen virus and the decisions of worldly governments feebly attempting to slow its spread. Society has had serious conversations about legislation’s ability to force medical examinations and treatments. People are demanding that vaccines be made mandatory on the general populous. Businesses shutter in while the masses call for stay-in-place lockdown orders, and for the first time in our history as a Western world we are unable to go certain places in public without covering our face.
At times it seems as though the distinguishable rights, freedoms and compassion that historically made me so proud to be Canadian are being diminished to no more than a memory lingering distantly in the back of my mind. I know I am not alone in feeling that way.
At stores, those who do not wear their masks quite properly or forget to hand sanitize upon entrance are sneered at with judgement by passersby, and sorting through the produce to find a pure, unblemished fruit has become a novelty of the past. Churches and religious institutions, the only places left where people can turn to for hope and community, are mocked and scorned for remaining open. Just the thought of receiving a hug, a gesture formally known to represent warmth and comfort, now horrifies some. Our precious little world has lost its way.
Over the past ten months we have seen nearly every democratic society in the Western world gamble away their longstanding values of freedom and self-determination in surrender to fear and uncertainty. I am proud to say that Alberta has not, but I do worry the wills of society are changing.
Our Government has worked hard to keep 85% of our economy open during even the worst of times and avoid far-reaching lockdowns, contrary to almost everywhere else. We have vowed never to make vaccines mandatory and will even be going so far as to repeal section 38(1)(c) of the Public Health Act which allows for such. I have personally fought back against the legality of forced treatments as Deputy Chair of the Public Health Act Review. Yet many amongst us are unhappy about these endeavors. What is scariest about the current state of our world is not that people have begrudgingly surrendered their personal freedoms to the Government, but that they have begged and pleaded for the Government to take them away even when it did not want to do so. To paraphrase a neighbor of ours, people have been societally conditioned over the past year to view freedom as selfishness. That is a sad realization to admit. They say it takes just three weeks to form a habit, and we are now ten months into COVID 19 behaviour.
Heading into 2021, our province faces a pivotal crossroads in our history. We may choose to follow the path that so many other jurisdictions have chosen and establish a permanent, deeply held reliance on the Government, looking to institutions for continued moral, emotional, and financial support, or we may return to the old normal we all knew and loved where people lived without fear of their future and walked with confidence. I know which of the two options I prefer.
Ronald Reagan famously said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on.”
The fate of this new year and our future here on earth are the responsibility of no one other than ourselves to determine. As we embark into 2021, we must assess what kind of world we want to live in; what demands we may shortsightedly make of those with the ability to enact them and what the long- term consequences of those demands may be. We must also assess the role both ourselves and Government are expected to play in that world, and to what extent. We can get past COVID 19, but we need to want to do it.
The 20’s can still be our best years yet if we let them be. Stepping forward into this new year, let’s push for better. The future is in our hands, and with diligence and responsibility we can get our old normal back.