It’s time for us to ask and answer such a question and do the right thing by showing support for people of Brooks.
The number of COVID-19 cases in that city -an hour’s drive west of Medicine Hat -are spiking.
Many are linked to the JBS beef plant, which is a lynchpin in the Alberta agriculture sector, and anecdotally, the community of new immigrants and foreign workers who staff it.
Deep concern is understandable; this hits close to home in the Hat. We are all trying to avoid the Coronavirus, we’ve all been to Brooks and worries about the food supply are acute.
But how can it be that, while we have raised food production workers as heroes alongside health and other essential service providers, but we are ready to turn our backs or, worse, demonize, slaughterhouse workers in Brooks? A growing conversation in Medicine Hat debates how to best cut off travel between the two cities.
Word comes from several sources in Brooks about the problems created by “those people” (namely immigrants), and their housing conditions or lifestyles, as the “real reason” behind rapidly rising numbers. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who leads the Alberta COVID response, touched on the tricky issue during an update last week of a similar situation in High River. Some residents there are being denied access to banks and grocery stores because they work at the Cargill meat plant.
New reports in Calgary find that the worker’s union and Catholic charities -Filipinos are overwhelmingly devout Catholics -are rushing to fill gaps for those now banished within their own communities.
Aside from many being Canadian citizens, all are human beings.
As with all things COVID, we can’t physically rush in to help. Response must be thoughtful and safe. Containing outbreaks is difficult work for the health professionals now determining best courses of action for Brooks and High River.
In a time when Brooks needs the help and support the most, it’s tempting to isolate ourselves even further, rather than providing cautious and courageous support in new and novel ways.
Consider that there is great and growing sympathy for Fort McMurray residents who face flooding earlier this month, but so far not even a social media catchphrase to help the citizens of Brooks know that we’re all in this together.
They need moral support as well as tangible, on the ground, real world help from government and the medical community. We can make that decision to do our part and to do the right thing.
All of Southeastern Alberta should stand with Brooks.
This editorial originated in the Medicine Hat News.
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