JTHE NIGHT BEFORE a convoy of protesters was expected in Ottawa last January, I saw what appeared to be two dump trucks parked defensively outside an entrance to the Prime Minister’s residence. The strategic configuration of heavy machinery on city streets is a well-known counter-terrorism tactic used around the world, and for me that meant a tipping point on how serious things were. Is this really where Canada is in 2022?
Despite all the responses offered by public figures and the media, no one really seemed to know what to make of events in Ottawa and elsewhere during those three weeks of January and February. What started as opposition to a vaccination policy that would affect the minority of truckers crossing the Canada-US border has become a referendum on, among other things, whether this is the kind of country that can support a prominent movement for supremacy. white. Was the “freedom convoy” an isolated expression of economic fatigue and frustration in the midst of a long winter – or a sign of a larger systematic failure?
In other words, if the protests underscored prevailing fears that the center would not hold, it was not just because they disrupted the lives of thousands by blocking streets and forcing the Rideau Mall Center to close. Two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all increasingly sensitive to the surprising instability of our essential systems. In good times, most of us are privileged not to have to wonder if hospitals can care for people, if schools can operate, or if businesses can stay open. Now, with each new disruption of the status quo, one wonders how far one can push things.
A wide range of stories in this issue explore the state of various systems in the face of rapid change and particular challenges. Among them is child care, a major driver of the “giveaway of women” and something that governments have been promising Canadians for decades. In our cover story, “Childcare for All,” Berlin-based Sadiya Ansari uses Germany’s twenty-year experience with universal childcare as a guide to the childcare policy offered by Canada at $10 a day and anticipates the support we will need to ensure its success.
If you’ve ever been asked to sign an organ donor card, you probably know that national uptake in the program is low. (Only 32 percent of Canadians have recorded their decision to donate.) But what most of us don’t know is that, like so many overlapping elements of our healthcare infrastructure , the current organ transplant system is itself quite fragile, and the majority of donated organs are never transplanted due to logistical problems. In “How to Boost Organ Donation Without More Donors,” Karin Olafson traces the innovations the medical community is testing to save more lives.
Rawi Hage is a Montreal-based novelist. The internationally acclaimed writer has commented on global politics and current affairs while pushing the boundaries of creativity in works like De Niro’s game and Beirut Hellfire Society. In “The Wave”, a short story from his new collection, Stray dogs, Hage’s narrator explores the limits of community and culture in the face of natural and man-made disasters. You can also hear Hage’s thoughts on his latest work and the state of the world in an episode of The deep divea new podcast from The Walrus.
Not all of the challenges we face right now are caused by the pandemic, but the stress it has added to existing systems like health care, the economy and our social safety net has arguably made almost everything the rest less resistant, including our patience. Listening to the convoy demonstrators’ repeated calls for “freedom”, I was struck by the fact that what many of them really seemed to want was an escape from the global burden of disease, uncertainty and disruption – a chance to turn back time for a world where COVID-19 does not exist. Aren’t we all? Even with the return to stability in the nation’s capital, it is clear that we still have challenges ahead. If the problems of the past few years have done anything, it is that they demonstrate how interdependent we all are. To work, any solution will have to recognize this.
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