From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
Canadian politicians have been working diligently to complete a new long-term agreement on how health care will operate in this country.
Sounds nice, but they are neglecting something that will help us all better understand the health threats of the future and how to survive them. They have yet to appoint a strong, fully independent inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic.
An independent federal inquiry into COVID-19 is not needed to assess wrongdoing and assign blame. It is needed to detail how our governments, and society in general, handled the pandemic. What was done right, what mistakes were made and how to avoid them in future.
Officially there have been 757 million COVID-19 cases worldwide since the outbreak was reported in China three years ago. The World Health Organization (WHO) says those cases have resulted in 6.8 million deaths.
Canada has reported 4.6 million cases and 51,300 deaths. The number of cases is hugely underestimated because we all know people who have had Covid but have isolated and treated themselves without reporting it.
Without question the Covid pandemic is the most serious health threat of modern times and it is not over. WHO says that roughly 80,000 new cases still are being reported every 24 hours.
Many health experts say Covid will be a longstanding health threat and that other viral threats will continue to develop.
The federal government needs to appoint a top-level judge with strong legal and research teams to probe deeply how the COVID-19 outbreak was managed.
The inquiry also is needed to investigate the pandemic’s shocking side effects that have changed our world. Covid has helped to push us into a fully-blown mental health crisis that has seen increased crime, violence and other social problems.
Research commissioned by WHO indicates that during the pandemic, depression and anxiety increased by more than 25 per cent.
Covid has been devastating for some parts of the economy and has created serious setbacks in the education system. It is important that we develop ways to avoid, or better manage, serious side effects in future.
Most important for an inquiry is to ensure that lessons learned from Covid-19 are never forgotten and recommendations are followed. We don’t need yet another commission of inquiry report that sits in the dark collecting dust.
Twenty years ago, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) arrived from China, infecting 400 Canadians, killing 44. The Ontario government established the SARS Commission, headed by Mr. Justice Archie Campbell, to investigate where the virus came from, how it spread and how the outbreak was managed.
Justice Campbell’s key recommendation was that the precautionary principle be a main guide post in any infectious disease outbreak.
The precautionary principle states that when there is reasonable evidence of a public health threat we should not wait for scientific certainty before taking action to avert the threat. In another words, err on the side of caution to protect the public and health care workers.
That principle was not followed during the COVID-19 pandemic. If it had been, the outbreak would have been less devastating.
A Covid inquiry also needs to look into the serious consequences of mixing politics with science. We allowed politics to distort the clear thinking so vital in any health crisis.
Politics entered Covid debates early and heavily. The amount of misinformation, and outright disinformation, during Covid has been shocking and damaging to medical efforts to manage the crisis.
Most of us now have Covid information overload, with much information not supported by provable facts.
Now is the time for an independent commission to begin gathering all the provable facts about COVID-19, and all the lessons to learn from it. Mr. Justice Campbell wrote in his SARS report that lessons learned can help redeem our failures.
“If we do not learn the lessons to be taken from SARS, however, and if we do not make present governments fix the problems that remain, we will pay a terrible price in the face of future outbreaks of virulent disease.”
We have paid a terrible price from Covid. We should be doing everything possible now to avoid paying a terrible price from the next one.