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How COVID rules have made Canadians into criminals | Laurelly Dale

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 @ 1:52 PM | By Laurelly Dale


Laurelly Dale %>
Laurelly Dale
We all watched in awe — some of us in envy — as Breaking Bad’s Walter White slowly and happily transitioned from law-abiding science teacher into the creator of blue sky meth and later, into a strategic criminal overlord.

In the early stages of the pandemic, each of us fell in line as #stayhome #flattenthecurve dominated messaging in the media. Fast forward a year and three months later: even Mother Teresa has decided to break bad. In Canada, the restrictions and painfully slow vaccination distribution have forced everyone from Catholic school teachers to nurses and even academics, to develop the required skill of lying and rule-bending in order to survive. We’ve transitioned from Anne of Green Gables to Cyril Sneer. Breaking bad is the new normal in Canada. 

Who would have predicted that by May 2021 the U.S.A. would be 38 per cent fully vaccinated, their residents rubbing their eyes like newborn babies as they step out into a world with fewer restrictions, planning group activities like mask bonfires with full faces of makeup, getting back to work and throwing away at-home haircut kits. Cut to Canada: a mere three per cent have been fully vaccinated, lockdowns continue, leaders ignore science, and everyone is becoming a COVID criminal. The public shaming in Canada has reached a level so bad that even the New York Times reported it as a contributing factor to mismanagement of the pandemic.

This isn’t a situation where Canadians have become narcissists, prancing around Yonge Street believing that rules simply don’t apply to them. Here, we have a collective group that has decided enough is enough, they will not enforce formal norms and in many cases they will violate them. How very un-Canadian.

We have threatened our reputation of otherwise being polite, law-abiding citizens because we have rejected rules that are not proportional and are unduly harsh. Here, after lockdown number 29180, we are all becoming crafty COVID criminals. Types of COVID crime range from teaching kids to lie in school by explaining to their teachers that their sneezing is due to “allergies,” falsifying COVID waivers and visiting family members in secret. 

Canadians are rejecting rules for which common sense is lacking. Not in a  taxes-don’t-make-sense-therefore-I-won’t-pay-type of confusion, rather, people who have rule-abiding dispositions are refusing to follow ones that impose undue deprivations on their liberty and are not supported by research. 

In the early stages of the pandemic our leaders relied heavily on science to dictate the rules. People will conform to rules backed by science. Currently, the science says this: facemasks prevent the spread of the virus. It only makes sense that we created rules requiring facemasks to be worn in public. Given that so few in Canada have been fully vaccinated it only makes sense that we must still wear facemasks.   

Science also says that outdoor spaces allow for more physical distancing, reducing the risk of transmission. More airflow, ventilation, fewer chances you will transmit through respiratory droplets. In contrast to the science, various provincial governments created a rule banning all outdoor activities including parks, golf and tennis. Canadians have been confined to their homes for one year and three months. COVID fatigue has set in. It is no surprise that people are rejecting rules that are not backed by common sense and science. 

A study by Deborah Martinez of the Inter-American Development Bank in 2021 about the role of social norms during the pandemic revealed that people will comply with policies that harness social norms. In the same vein, the study found that undermining compliance with policies is easier than sustaining it.

This means that Canadians will not comply if the rules do not harness social norms because they were made without input from the public, businesses or backed by science. When rules do not reflect agreed-upon behaviour by the collective, people will reject them even if they are formalized by law. At this point it only makes sense that we are strategizing ways to skirt the rules as quickly as they are released. 

The government has lost credibility. Enforcers of these rules have either been ignoring their marching orders or advising the government of their refusal to enforce them. Doug Ford’s government in April directed police forces to pull over and interrogate residents about why they had left their homes and where they were going. Similar directives were issued throughout Canada. If police departments unanimously refusing to enforce draconian rules isn’t a sign that the government has lost credibility then I do not know what is.  

There is still hope that our leaders will regain credibility by refusing to pass knee-jerk reactionary legislation. Otherwise, Canadians will exit this pandemic as hardened COVID criminals. By fall we may fully return to our animal instincts à la society led by Jack in Lord of the Flies. 

Laurelly Dale is a criminal defence lawyer with Dale Law. Contact her at ldale@dalelegalfirm.com.

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