There’s a slogan that all of us have been exposed to for several weeks — or really, what feels to many of us like several years.
“We’re all in this together.”
For many Canadians, the slogan itself is a source of frustration. Many feel that while we are technically all in a different, surreal word because of the novel coronavirus, the society we live in means different people have different levels of sacrifice.
Many Canadians are able to do their jobs from home and remain on the payrolls of their employers. The sacrifice they make is the loss of the liberty to do all those other things that sweeten life, like being able to go out in the world and engage with friends and family.
Not having that freedom is difficult enough. But the current situation is exponentially more difficult for those who cannot work from home and cannot stay on the payrolls of employers. I’m thinking of those who have been laid off, and whose employers have made no commitment to bring them back when things become somewhat normalized.
On my show recently, I read from a note that was sent to my Facebook address. It was from someone who wasn’t able to do his job from home and had no idea when he would ever be returning to work. He was flummoxed because he had children at home and he felt he was being forced to play the role of teacher during this crisis while their real teachers were being paid, even though they had no classes to teach.
Many teachers push back on this for all the right reasons. They care. Ontario teacher Karyn Keith cares about all her students and that would now include her own child who cannot be in school.
“Every day it’s like there’s this anvil swinging above my head,” she told Global News. “Like I’ve got to get it together, I’ve got to get a program, I’ve got to get a schedule, I’ve got to get this figured out. I’ve got to enforce this somehow.”
Yet life isn’t fair and I had the temerity to say so.
That naturally triggered communications with teachers who said they were in constant communication with their students and preparing lessons online. That is no doubt true for many teachers. But for the person who is unable to stay on a payroll, the frustration isn’t mitigated.
While being told to collect $2,000 of emergency relief for four months can quiet some of the pain, it doesn’t end the societal conundrum. While we’re all in this together, we are not all sharing the same level of sacrifice.
Teachers are the public servants who have the deepest emotional connection with Canadian families. They are not nameless or faceless as are many public servants in this country who have not, so far, faced massive layoffs like those in the private sector.
Some change may be coming soon in Manitoba, where the premier is thinking out loud about a substantial layoff in the provincial public sector. One out of every four public servants in Manitoba may have their jobs on the block.
The elephant in this inequality room is the demographic reality of this crisis. No group of people is enduring more stress than the elderly. The majority of long-term care homes in Montreal have been hit by the virus.
None of our elderly have the immune systems they once had. None of them is as immune as their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All of them are in either in care or have friends or family members in care homes and the statistics are reinforced with each briefing.
Approximately half the casualties in this crisis are people in long-term care facilities. They aren’t getting sick through any of their own. And when they hear the slogan, “We’re all in this together,” one doesn’t have to exercise any imagination to know how many respond. Sacrificing salaries, liberties and conveniences are difficult enough — none of that compares with sacrificing one’s life.
Is there anything in the world more cruel than dying a painful death alone, unable to see your loved ones?
The slogan, “We’re all in this together”, may be true.
But it would be seriously untrue to say that we are all making equal sacrifices.
Charles Adler hosts Charles Adler Tonight on Global News Radio stations.