An open letter to Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario

by The Standard | Podcast April 22nd, 2021

The last paragraph on this open letter has been edited for clarity, since it originally appeared in print. A revised letter will be sent to the Priemer. – The Standard New Corp.

Well, the latest round of lockdowns has given us all pause to think. I have no question restrictions are necessary, and I heartily agree with the intent of all of the lockdowns. Some may choose to ruminate on disgruntled thoughts, ‘stewin in their own beef.’ But I choose to trust our public servants are doing their very best with their very best intents, as the information coalesces with their perspective. I believe they have the best information. But even the best information can get slightly skewed in favour of a determination; it can stimulate a partial tunnel vision as a knee-jerk response.

However, this leads me to think towards solutions that may help open up possibilities for things. After all, what good is it to dwell on what’s disagreeable anyway? That’s the refuge of a lazy heart. So, in this spirit of cooperation and possibility thinking, I offer a thought. It may lead to a better sense of will for the people of Ontario. Certainly for a segment of them anyway. I’m hoping it may also lead to creative, cooperative solutions for those who have chosen to feel repressed by the good controls the Ontario government has placed on Covid.

Creative solutions are the key. Remember, readers, these lockdowns are an effort to shackle Covid or severely restrict its ability to spread. Our co-working with these regulations dramatically increases the effectiveness of regulating the Covid virus.

Let’s look at what have been the most effective barriers to Covid.

One, testing and so filtering out people who may be carrying the Covid virus, requiring them to consider the lives of others and self-isolate.

Two, as an extension of this thinking, under lockdown, staying enclosed in an environment with only one’s closest circle of family in one dwelling.

Three, ensuring a barrier to prevent the transmission of the virus between individuals has been found to be a good defence in public places. This is what the board of education has implemented within schools, so students won’t or are less likely to contract the virus if anyone else has it without their knowledge.

Four, the wearing of masks to limit the dispersion of the virus through exhalation, including speech.

Five, keeping a safe distance of approximately 6 feet or 2 meters apart is indicated and therefore recommended by the health department and so enforced by authorities in Ontario and across Canada.

Six, the consistent use of hand sanitizers to prevent the surface transmission of the virus and kill it on surfaces it’s applied to, including but not limited to human skin. These sanitizers are recommended in conjunction with a regiment of regular washing, with soap and water, in order to prevent any build-up or over-saturation. Regular washing with soap and water has been advised from the start of Covid, recommended as a part of a good health practice anyway. Although washing in excess can cause dryness of skin and/or chafing, washing moderately is better, approximately two to three times a day.

Perspective:
Assembly is very significant to worshippers, as it is to others as well for social reasons, but it is particularly so for those who gather for spiritual purposes. The amazing hope engendered by the gathering of believers, could contribute to optimism sadly needed in our general populace. This is not favouritism but acknowledging a preestablished purpose for these gatherings.

They have always been an aid to the healthy function of our society as a whole, even beyond the borders of the faith community, to the establishing and maintaining of social order, respect of governing bodies, and the dignity of the individual.

So, while still satisfying all of the requirements for safety, I would like to advocate for a possible concession in the lockdown restrictions but allow for social interaction of a kind, much along the lines of virtual gathering. Let’s call it Augmented Gathering. With all restrictions being observed, it involves the gathering of churchgoers, of which there is a considerable portion of the population across the board.

I would say it could be limited to those places of worship already registered as viable religious organizations, so no one may use this as a loophole to start gathering under false pretenses.

Here is the suggestion:

One, people be enclosed within personal vehicles during services offered by their places of worship as an even better barrier than in public schools. In schools, these barriers are not totally enclosed, like in a private space.

Two, permits given to these places to broadcast their services on a local radio frequency limited to the area of their property.

Three, cars could park 2 meters apart. The size of the parking lot should be taken into account for the calculation of new attendance numbers. This would be an amendment to the restrictions to the numbers allowed to gather, presently, on any of these properties for these reasons.

Three, religious staff workers would act as security and monitor the parking lot to ensure all windows are closed while on the property. Otherwise, carloads would be required to leave. Places of worship could purchase and install small broadcast units to send the service to the radios of parishioners, not registered to attend within the building, but who are registered to attend in, let us call it, the overflow area for the service. This would allow the clergy to effectively minister to those within the building, as per present restrictions, even if it was only five people. In addition, this would also provide the environment, so the service could be generated. Then those attending in their vehicles could receive encouragement through the ministry, via the broadcast, as well.

I believe this allowance would be seen as a creative effort by the Ontario government to accommodate the need for inclusion in society and address a very significant need for the spiritual community of Ontarians. It could go a very long way to alleviating the perception, by some out there, albeit, to a degree erroneously, of the government being heavy-handed and being out of touch with the reality people are going through in their personal lives during Covid.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe for one moment our public servants are insensitive or detached in this dilemma. Yet, I do think something in this direction, with a view on other further concessions to other public sector gatherings, could break down negative momentum and enlist hope in the hearts of many, to help you in your difficult task. Thank you so much for your carefully considered leadership to date Premier Ford.

Editor, the Standard Newspaper.