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Is democracy endangered by the pandemic crisis?

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Leslie Campbell

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April 13, 2020

WE HAD A LOVELY HIKE TO SHELLALIGAN PASS yesterday, a Sunday, taking our lunch and David’s cameras. He got some superb drone video footage of the shoreline. The sea looks deep blue, except closer to shore where it’s a riveting emerald green. Combined with the wide rocky ledges of white-grey granite, it looks stunningly, exotically beautiful from above.

I revelled in reading while sitting on those rocky ledges—mostly my historical fiction book Resistance Women about the years in Germany covering Hitler’s rise to power and the daring (non-fictional) women who witnessed and fought in various ways against fascism. Like those proverbial frogs in boiling water, most intelligent people kept thinking it couldn’t get worse, right through step-by-step trashing of the rule of law, the growing restrictions, then violence, then genocide against the Jews, the aggression towards other nations, and, of course, Hitler’s megalomania and lust for world domination.

 

 553833412_ShelalliganPassaerial.jpg.ac3bd3c18d0bd99c3f51b0251dcf746f.jpg

The shoreline along the Shellaligan Pass trail on Quadra Island

 

It does ring some warning bells about this time, a time when the world is in crisis and leaders are demanding, or surreptitiously grasping at, new powers that sidestep their legislative bodies.

Today I’ve been reading about how the pandemic is revealing autocratic leanings in many governments. The list of nations granting special powers to leaders who usurp the role of their parliaments is growing. One might expect that of the Philippines or Hungary, but even Trudeau veered in that direction when his government tried to pass bailout legislation that gave them special powers through December 2021 to spend money (and raise taxes) without Parliament’s approval. Fortunately, that measure was thwarted by condemnation in the media and the opposition. But Alberta went ahead with such undemocratic plans.

It seems like a ripe moment for those in power to attempt to acquire more. Daily press conferences give them so much more exposure. Perfect for egomaniacs. Incumbents have a leg up at the best of times; with the constant attention on them right now, the opposition is left in the shadows.

Meanwhile, closer to home, I interview Wendy Boyer, general manager of Victoria’s Iyengar Yoga Centre, for our series on how the city’s small businesses and organizations are faring in this virus-induced upheaval. She tells me of the non-profit’s considerable losses, but also the generosity of many patrons who donated class fees despite their cancellation——an experience similar to that I’ve heard from so many other non-profits. Wendy tells me about the Centre’s positive moves towards offering online classes. They will start in May with a few of their usual classes.

My mom, Jade, called today. She is doing really well, now into a Terry Fallis novel which my friend Heather lent her and claims is hilarious. Humour would be welcome, as my mom’s other main activities are reading the newspaper and a dose of television news at 6pm. (“It’s a real mess,” she says of the situation.) For a few years, Jade, now almost 92, seemed to have given up on books. But since her move into the James Bay Care Centre two years ago, she has rediscovered the joy of having a good story to turn to.

I received an update via email from James Bay Care Centre today, as well. The management staff there are wonderful at keeping us informed. All the care workers will now wear masks. They are all checking supplies that normally would be brought in by family (in my mom’s case, primarily distilled water, kleenex and chocolate) and will make sure she doesn’t run out. My sisters arranged delivery of a box of chocolates for Easter, so the chocolate supply is taken care of for now. Perhaps most importantly, the staff are offering us video chats with our loved one via Zoom. We just have to arrange the timing.

I feel so grateful that no care homes on Vancouver Island have had an outbreak of COVID-19. What has occurred elsewhere in Canada is tragic and shameful. That the military had to be called in to help in Quebec belongs in the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction book.

I welcome your response, either as a comment below or privately through the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of this page.

 

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