It is such a heavy time. For people like me, who wear their heart on their sleeve, who can’t help but see and feel everyone’s point of view, whose heart is so tender from trying to help heal the world, this is a very heavy time. I have tried to avoid writing any post about vaccinations, masks and pandemic responses, but I felt I had to today. I know this is a super long post – it turns out I had a lot to say on this topic.

In my efforts to see all sides, I will start by saying that I have a friend who is not getting vaccinated because they had a family member die from a reaction to a medication that did not have enough clinical trials completed – a medication that, a month later, gave a warning that would have ensured that this person did not take it. And another friend who is not getting vaccinated because their child had a vaccine injury (pre-COVID) and has long term health issues. Their responses are coming from genuine, understandable and valid fears.

But I also have a friend who has a medically fragile child, who for reasons completely unrelated to COVID sometimes needs to go to the hospital for a ventilator, whose biggest fear is that there is no ventilator for her child the next time it is needed because it it being used for COVID patients. This friend also used to receive help from night nurses, so that she is not up all night monitoring her child and then expected to go to work as a teacher the next day. There have been no night nurses recently – this friend is on her own. And I have a friend who got COVID and is suffering from terrible long haul COVID symptoms – she doesn’t know what will happen to her, what her life will look like in the future – and she is also mostly on her own with all this. She wishes that she was not forgotten in all the conversations, she wishes that people would get the vaccine to help stop COVID so that others don’t end up with long haul symptoms like her, and so COVID does not mutate again and come back as something so much worse. Both of these friends’ fears are also genuine, understandable and valid. They are not experiencing freedom right now.

Then there are hard-working people, entrepreneurs, who have lost their businesses due to the lockdowns – or if not lost them, have lower incomes and are struggling to take care of their families. And people who have been laid off because the companies they worked for had reduced revenue. Their fears and suffering are also genuine, understandable and valid. And I think it is hard for them to take rules and advice from government employees who have not had any reduction in their salaries or quality of life.

And then you have the doctors, nurses – all the front line workers – they are tired. They have worked so hard for so long to keep us all safe – and they have received abuse and hate from some, which is completely unacceptable. They don’t know how much longer they can keep going, they are losing the motivation to keep going. Their feelings and suffering are also genuine, understandable and valid.

I know that none of that presents an answer or a way forward – that is just a glimpse into how I see and feel all the different sides, the circles that my mind does on a daily basis about all this. While it is exhausting, I think that it is good to think about every side – I think that it is the empathy piece that is missing from the conversations. Really, what it comes down to is the truth that we are all afraid and many of us feel alone.

Which takes us to the current event – the Freedom Convoy. I have friends who are supporting it, friends who are kind and compassionate, who are excited about this moment of unity – this coming together of people to fight for freedom, who are ready for a revolution that will make the world a better place. And when the Freedom Convoy’s ties to white nationalism and white supremacy are brought up, they argue that the majority of people supporting this movement are not in support of white nationalism and white supremacy – and I believe them, I do. But here’s the part I think is missing from this conversation – the truth that none of us are free until we are all free.

Without attacking anyone, without witty memes and jokes, I have some questions for people to ask themselves if they truly want to reflect on all this. If you are standing up for freedom with this Freedom Convoy movement, are you also standing up for freedom for all other social justice movements?

Do you support freedom for Indigenous peoples? As just one issue to discuss, are you aware that more than half of the children in Canadian foster homes are Indigenous, despite them making up less than 8% of the country’s child population? In Manitoba, approximately 90% of children in care are Indigenous. And the outcomes for kids in the child welfare system, Indigenous or not, are not good. In British Columbia, kids in care are more likely to wind up in jail than they are to graduate high school. Across Canada, kids in and from the foster care system make up 60 per cent of homeless youth, and a third of homeless adults. This is not freedom. Did you attend the March on Canada Day to show your support? Are you listening to Indigenous voices to help learn more so that we can do better? This is a great post from Cody Coyote to start with: https://www.facebook.com/CodyCoyoteMusic/videos/671913347149405/

Are you aware of the housing crisis in Nunavut? Did you know that the houses are run down and full of mould and there isn’t enough housing? This leads to overcrowding – which is a terrible situation for the spread of COVID, and has also resulted in recent TB outbreaks. Did you know that TB still exists in Canada? Did you know that the suicide rate in Nunavut is 9 times higher than the national average? This is not freedom. Did you watch former NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq’s farewell speech? If not, I highly recommend you do: https://youtu.be/-vQnzQIQn48

I have started up my Letter Writing for Reconciliation Free Online Meet-ups again. Our first session for this year will be held on February 9 at 5:00 pm EST. We will be writing letters to the Prime Minister demanding clean water for all Indigenous communities. You are welcome to join us! Get all the details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/422799142914914

Do you support the Black Lives Matter movement? Did you attend, or at least support, their protest on Parliament Hill? Are you listening to Black people share their lived experience of dealing with racism every day? Are you truly considering the fear that Black parents feel for their children when interacting with police? This is not freedom. These fears are also genuine, understandable and valid. This is a great video to watch to help learn more and do better: https://youtu.be/DrqufuL6eD8

Are you involved in fighting to end homelessness? Do you support the building of affordable housing in your community? Do you donate to organizations who are doing great work to help get people off the street? People experiencing homelessness are definitely not free. If you want to learn more about this issue, I highly recommend you follow Shawna, from Shawna’s Outreach – Ottawa – her posts come from such a place of love and compassion, you will definitely learn more from her: www.facebook.com/Shawnas-Outreach-Ottawa-111328751000757

Do you support refugees arriving to safety in your community? Have you listened to their voices about how hard it is to have to leave your home and settle somewhere new? This is not freedom. Are you helping refugee families build a new life in your community? We are working to help one family settle here in the Ottawa/Gatineau area and have joined forces with many others to fundraise for them – you are welcome to join us in these efforts: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-bring-the-al-taha-family-to-safety-in-canada

I could go on, but I think that the point has been made. And these questions are all rhetorical. I actually don’t want people to answer in the comments, I just want those who are open to reflecting on all this to reflect on all this.

If we truly care about freedom, we have to care about everyone’s freedom. I know that we are all tired and busy and barely hanging on, and this seems like a lot to learn about and you might think that it is impossible to be expected to know everything about all these issues. And there is definitely truth to that. But maybe you could just start with one issue – follow one person from whom you could learn more, donate to one group that is doing good work. We need to internalize the truth that we are all connected and that none of us are truly free until all of us are free. We need to take better care of one another. Let’s put our efforts behind ensuring freedom for everyone.