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COLUMN: As Canadians, we can get through this

Milne Jared-P
Jared Milne

The fallout of the coronavirus is pretty much the only thing on many Canadians’ minds these days. People are worried about everything from their health to their livelihoods, as businesses remain closed and hundreds of deaths are projected even under the best-case scenarios. The federal and provincial governments are preparing massive aid packages for people and businesses alike, hoping to at least mitigate the worst of the damage done by the virus.  

One of the bright spots in an otherwise grim time has been the response of many Canadian leaders. Justin Trudeau and provincial premiers like Doug Ford have been front and centre in the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Many of them have won praise even from their critics for their efforts to keep people updated on the crisis, ensure critical supplies are being delivered and enable public health officials to do their jobs.  

This response is nothing new when responding to accidents, epidemics or natural disasters in Canada. A look back at history shows how resilient we as Canadians have been in responding to and overcoming these catastrophes.  

In Alberta, we suffered terrible floods in 2013 and fires in 2016, and premiers Alison Redford and Rachel Notley were widely praised for the determined leadership they showed in dealing with the disasters. When Prairie farmers were being burned by droughts in the early 2000s, farmers from Eastern Canada provided hay to help them feed their herds. Musicians like Shania Twain and Neil Young organized charity concerts to help Toronto when its economy suffered from the SARS epidemic. When the Red River flooded in Manitoba in 1997 and Quebec and Ontario were inundated with ice storms in 1998, the Canadian Forces worked diligently to get desperately needed aid to civilians. Canadians from across the country also donated large amounts of money to help out their fellow citizens. These aren’t new things in Canada, either – after the catastrophic 1917 explosion that devastated Halifax, everyone from government leaders to military officials to individual citizens worked to help survivors and provide relief to a devastated community.  

All of these disasters had tragic consequences for Canadians. Some people lost their lives, while others had their lives permanently changed. But many more people, and the communities they called home, eventually recovered. As I’ve written before, survival is an important characteristic of our history as Canadians. We’ve endured many different natural disasters over the years, and we’ve repeatedly come together to help our fellow Canadians deal with them.  

I don’t know how long the coronavirus pandemic will last. I’m worried about the people I know and care about who are probably facing all kinds of stress I’ve never had to deal with. I wonder what impact the pandemic will have on Canada in the long term.  

What I do know, though, is as Canadians, we can get through this.  

Just as we often have a bigger impact on the world than we often give ourselves credit for, we’re also capable of surviving a lot more than we realize.