I am sensing a disturbance in the Force. Since my last column on the subject, I’ve heard disturbing stories. Something is deeply wrong. The problem is that here on Hornby Island, vaccine passport requirements diverge significantly from official public health orders, and that is creating an unsustainable, potentially volatile situation.
The official public health guidelines can be seen at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/proof . In brief, gatherings, weddings, classes and organized events of all kinds in public spaces require vaccine passports for groups of fifty or more. But for some reason, our local venues have all implemented a zero-tolerance policy. Here on Hornby, all groups, classes and gatherings of any size require passports. No public discussion has taken place about this decision, which is unfortunate.
Now bands, for example, cannot practice in their accustomed venues if one or more members are unvaccinated. The same goes for dance groups, emotional support groups, board meetings, groups or classes of any sort or size. Our community is made up of such groups, some of which have been meeting for years. Groups may simply stop meeting, or struggle to find alternatives which don’t exist. As for those groups which choose to leave out their unvaccinated members, what rifts and emotional wounds are created? Feelings matter.
When people feel treated unfairly, hurts fester and that generates toxicity. A community of our size cannot afford to treat so many members as if they are disposable. I hear whispers of “they deserve it” and “people who don’t comply should be forced” and I shudder. This is not my Hornby. Our island culture has always tended towards tolerance and inclusion. How many of us moved to these islands in the first place for a more free-flowing way of life? When people feel pressured, they resist.
Resentments are building, and the worst of it is, such feelings are justified, because the public health orders are clear. It’s one thing to suffer lockdown along with everyone else by government order. It’s quite another to be unnecessarily locked out of the active life of the community. If the official order requiring passports for groups of fifty or more seems too frighteningly large for our small island, then let us set the limit at twenty, or even fifteen. Just, please, anything but zero.
The unvaccinated are not ciphers; they are friends and neighbours, essential to the life of our community. They volunteer, they contribute, they deserve to be treated like they matter. Beliefs aside, personal choices aside, whatever the rest of the world chooses to do, we need to remember who we are and what we value. We are a community, we are in this together. A healthy community seeks inclusive solutions and minimizes harms.
I am sure the decision to go above and beyond the public health order was made from care and concern, but now that a little time has passed, consequences are showing. I do understand the need to abide by the rules, but I fear we are strangling ourselves on them. Is this what we collectively want?
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