NOTES/QUOTES #17: Queen Vicky Day; Friendship Circles; and Whyzee-F?
Happy Victoria Day!
Referred to as “the Great White Mother” by the British during early treaty negotiations, Queen Vicky — as I like to call her — was featured on a medal awarded to chiefs who signed certain treaties between 1760 and 1923.
On the other side of the medal was pictured a British officer and a native chief shaking hands.
Now, I have no idea how modern Indigenous people think about the Crown. I have read that Constitutional scholars consider First Nations are “strongly supportive of the monarchy,” but I’ll take that info with a grain of salt.
When colonial settlement expanded westwards in Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, more treaties were signed with the Crown, brokering land exchanges granting the Indigenous people reserves and other compensation — such as livestock, ammunition, education, health care, and certain rights to hunt and fish.
I note that the North-West Rebellion of 1885 was sparked by Métis and Cree over perceived unfairness in the treaties signed with Queen Victoria. So there’s that.
Treaty 11, the last of the numbered treaties, was signed in 1921. It covered present-day Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut and includes Dene, Gwich’in, Tlicho (Dogrib) and Sahtu people.
The vast region here was of little interest to the colonialists, who didn’t want to take on the financial and administrative burden that treaty-making in the North entailed. The thought was that the inhabitants would be “better off left living their traditional lifestyles.”
However, oil and gas discoveries in the Mackenzie region — especially at Norman Wells — resulted in what are described as “hasty negotiations combined with weak implementation of the terms.”
“The treaty did not bring about many of the positive changes that the First Nations who signed it had expected,” states the Canadian Encyclopedia. “Medical treatment remained largely inaccessible, and a flu epidemic, along with tuberculosis and pneumonia, devastated Northern communities in the following years.”
Queen Vicky was born on May 24, 1819. During her 63-year reign, Vicky’s subjects suffered a Cholera pandemic, probably arriving on ships bringing imports from China. It was part of a terrible global pandemic between 1846 and 1860.
My research into Victoria Day and the woman it is named for highlighted a few facts of life for me.
- Pandemics are a common recurrence in the history of the world.
- Many seem to originate in Asia, specifically China (Bubonic Plague, SARS, Bird Flu, Hong Kong Flu and many other influenzas), likely due to immense diversity in animal and bird species and large human populations.
- The Indigenous people of the North have every right to be wary of disease brought in by those from other areas of the country. That would include the current COVID-19 situation.
- Those same people have every right to be distrusting of the government in Ottawa, but they could have different thoughts about the British Crown.
So while for many Canadians, the Victoria Day long weekend — May Long — is the traditional start of summer, in the North, it’s a time where spring is just first signalling its return. It’s when the ice roads close, the days get much longer and the gulls return, competing with the ravens for food.
This year, the weather is a bit colder than usual. It snowed a couple of days ago and single-digit temperatures are forecast until mid-week. And under the GNWT’s COVID-19 restrictions, even if it was warmer, only day-use campgrounds are open and there is precious little else to do.
So it’s a good time to write a blog or two.
EMERGING WISELY? THAT’S YOUR OPINION
“The measured approach outlined by Dr. Kandola will help us get the NWT and its economy moving again, while continuing to protect the health of NWT residents.” — Premier Caroline Cochrane
So, have you all created your friendship circles?
Of all the #CovidCrazy ideas I’ve heard, the concept that a “friendship circle can be established for indoor visitors to your house,” is just bat-crap nuts.
But that’s part of Relaxing Phase 1: First steps from the “Emerging Wisely” document last week by the plan-happy folks at your GNWT.
“Today, the Northwest Territories takes its first careful steps towards a more open society,” states a news release from the GNWT (a.k.a. Big Brother).
Now I get it that SARS-CoV-2 is a very scary novel coronavirus responsible for this pandemic. But I also know that the mortality rate is very, very low for healthy younger people. And I understand that we have a health-care system that can’t handle a sustained number of very sick people.
The GNWT, led by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, has done a very good job in protecting us from the virus. I heartily applaud her efforts and the hard work done by all those involved.
The GNWT informs us that, at the time of my writing, there are no active cases of COVID-19 in the NWT as all five reported cases have recovered. And those were all travel-related. We have had no community spread.
As of today, May 17, there have been 75,864 cases across Canada and 5,679 people have died. Some 37,819 have recovered. More than 75-per-cent of those deaths are related to outbreaks at long-term care and seniors homes. Also at risk in southern Canada are people in closed-in areas, including food processing facilities and other factories.
The NWT is in containment mode. The only other jurisdiction to have done better than us is Nunavut, which has to date had no cases of the ‘Vid.
If we continue to be very, very good at keeping our border closed and closely monitoring folks who need to come in (those who have traveled outside the territory will continue to be required to self-isolate upon their return to the NWT), we should be able to enjoy a pretty carefree life in our COVID-free bubble. Right?
Wrong. Even if we have no cases and have never had community spread, we are all still under some oppressive GNWT measures that are as confusing as they are damaging to businesses, jobs, education and the general enjoyment of life.
I offer, for consideration, the GNWT’s Friendship Circle directive (not to be confused with the little used and largely ignored Google Circles social media platform):
- Each household can have up to five people they don’t live with come over and be inside their house. A maximum of 10 people in total can be inside the house at any time. This is required.
- It’s strongly recommended that in your household, you keep a circle of friends as small as possible.
- Keep to your fave five: Stick with the same five people to invite over to your place. Remember – you could still hang out with others at a park or in your backyard as long as you keep two metres apart. Your fave five would just be for inside your house where the risk is highest.
- Have each person in the house pick one person they will have over regularly: this is a great way to make sure your best friends can come over for a coffee, while your household’s circle stays small.
- Pick another house with your best friends or a family you get along with and have them over regularly: this is another way to keep your circle small.
- It’s also strongly recommended that you keep physical distance of two metres in your house as much as you can to protect each other.
- If you’re having someone over who’s older, has a weaker immune system, or has an illness already, we strongly recommend no other outside visitors while they are there.
- In the rare case your household already has more than 10 people living there, the GNWT does not expect anyone to reduce their household size to comply. You will simply not be allowed to have others over. It does not prevent anyone from within that household from visiting anyone else.
- We are counting on you to use common sense to protect each other while we all get some relief from being cooped up.
It’s that last bullet point that really is the only guiding policy we should be living under (save for the travel restrictions and associated self-isolation policy). Forget finding your “fave five,” as that’s a simply dippy idea that I bet will be wholly ignored. But if your neighbour decides to rat you out, you will be violating the Public Health Act and could face fines or jail. Really.
“Without community engagement as a goal of communication efforts, there is a risk of distrust, spread of misinformation, and lack of compliance,” states an appendix to the Emerging Wisely document.
Well, I have to agree with that.
The document continues: “To be clear, reopening will increase the risk of COVID-19 spread.”
Spread of what, exactly? We don’t have any of the virus here.
As long as we don’t have any cases of COVID-19 that aren’t confined to someone who has travelled here — and as long as that person’s contacts since returning are tracked and monitored — then we don’t have the anything to be concerned over spreading.
The fact people are so scared of catching the non-existent ‘Rona that they wear face masks while driving alone in their cars is a good thing, though. It means we are ready and willing to live our lives in a cleaner and safer way — which is good, pandemic or not — and we shouldn’t have to be subject to a phased relaxation of complete lockdown we have endured since March.
Of course, we are in no position to throw open our doors for international visitors, as we had as recently as last winter. But the long-term demise of our promising tourism sector is something to fully explore on another day. It’s just sad. I feel awful for those people who had invested so heavily in that industry. But perhaps domestic tourism can return in time.
But I digress. Back to the now.
From what I hear, we are in a good position to have widespread testing as needed. Our hospitals have never been COVID crowded and it’s time to start doing any elective surgeries or other health procedures that have been on hold.
From what I’ve seen and heard, most folks are OK with social distancing, and using hand sanitizer before entering stores. We are now used to dealing with clerks and other retail staff through cut-outs in plastic screens. Some people are even choosing to wear face masks, although they are impractical in cooler weather with people wearing eyeglasses (they fog up so you can’t see where you are walking — far more dangerous than catching a virus that isn’t here).
Now it’s easy to see that Dr. Kandola is following recommendations from other jurisdictions and especially those out of Johns Hopkins University, a leading private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. But the chief public health officer’s primary job is to keep us safe from the virus. We look to our elected leaders to balance the doc’s advice with making sure the cure isn’t worse than the potential for illness.
I get it. There are legal reasons as well as political ones for avoiding doing something that other places aren’t. But we are in a rather unique situation. And we need to get back to work.
We also need to take care of our most vulnerable people as much as humanly possible. Indigenous communities should be able to choose whether they want to safely close themselves off to outsiders.
But right now, with no cases, no community spread and closed borders, opening just a little now and a little more in a few weeks and a little more a while after that just makes no sense. It is not “emerging wisely,” it is surfacing nonsensically.
What will change with our situation by mid-June that isn’t happening right now?
If we get a case or two, we can deal with that and stomp it out. If we somehow suffer a sizeable outbreak, then we can shut things down again. We know how to do that. Really, we do.
UPDATE: On May 20, Premier Cochrane held a media conference and stated “We’re not in a bubble.” She was also aghast that she was pretty much the only person wearing a mask when she went to a store on the weekend.
HASHING OUT THE TAGS
While there are clearly more pressing and important issues out there right now, inside the brain of Fort James, some tiny annoyances still rattle around.
One of those is the use of the social media hashtag #YZF when trying to identify the community of #Yellowknife.
I have, of course, written about this before. And I have to admit, I am seeing less improper use of local hashtags on my Tweetdeck. Ironically, the City of Yellowknife (@OurYellowknife) insists on using the airport’s hashtag when referencing city activities (see image below).
Now folks might wonder why I still focus on Twitter, as more people use Facebook up here? To my mind — yup, welcome inside Fort James — Facebook is for families and friends and communities sharing more personal or general informational posts. Twitter is still the gold standard for hard news and updates on breaking events.
And I just don’t use Instagram, but I do enjoy looking at some of the nice scenic photos and creative selfies there. OK, Boomer.
The acronym #YZF stands for the Yellowknife airport. It is also the make of a popular Yamaha “superbike” motorcycle.
It is not the correct hashtag for #Yellowknife.