By Chad Ingram
Stressful times can bring out both the bestand worst in people.
Certainly during the COVID-19 crisis we'veseen incredible demonstrations of community support and spirit in HaliburtonCounty. We've also seen for nearly the past two months an ugly feud thatseems to play out again and again on the social media feeds of this newspaperand its sister publication a feud that is extremely divisive and helpful toabsolutely no one.
The impetus for this ongoing public feudseems to have been a letter from the physicians of the Haliburton Highlandsissued in March asking seasonal residents to consider the limited medicalresources of the community before deciding to make a visit. To be clear no onewas told to stay away. No one was told they weren't allowed to come to theircottages. Municipalities don’t possess such an authority. At the time seasonalresidents were asked politely by agroup of medical doctors and local governments as well as the premier toreconsider coming to cottage country amid the outbreak.
What followed were some angry reactions onour Facebook feeds that can be collectively paraphrased as essentially “Howdare you! I pay property taxes!”
That was followed up by equally unhelpfulcomments from some year-round residents telling seasonal residents to stayaway and also a number of cases of incorrectly casting baseless aspersionsthat the few confirmed cases of COVID-19 we've had in the county – there havebeen seven so far all resolved – were likely brought here by seasonalresidents. And on and on. It's been divisive vitriolic at times and supremelyunhelpful in a time that is already very stressful for everyone.
It's gotten to the point where I can't posta seemingly innocuous story to the paper's Facebook page without the feudresurfacing.
A few weeks ago I posted a story aboutlocal lake associations donating tens of thousands of dollars to food banks.“Aren't these the same people you have told to stay home?” wrote one commenter.
Last week I wrote a column asking people tosupport local businesses. The very first response to that column? “After thedisrespecting attitude posted on Facebook from some full-time residents I willbe getting all the food and supplies I need in the city.” That led to anothermanifestation of the feud.
These are the types of comments that havebeen littering our social media feeds for the past couple of months. I use theterm “litter” very intentionally since it's useless inane garbage that is awaste of everyone's time and energy.
One reader even called on the paper tostart moderating an argument as if it's our job to referee a bunch of adultsfighting like children on social media. You know what our job is? To writenewspaper stories about the deadly virus that is shaking the fabric of oursociety. What utterly ridiculous behaviour. Please just stop it.
The messaging from the province and manylocal governments has since changed that being essentially come to yourseasonal property just exercise caution so hopefully everyone can get on withtheir lives now.
As Haliburton County Warden Liz Danielsenhas said “Remember that we all have equal rights and are going through thisstruggle together. Finger pointing and accusations will ultimately hurt thereputation that we have all worked so hard to create not just a beautifulplace to create memories but a place that truly welcomes visitors year round.”