Channelling Dr Bonnie Henry — Be Kind; Be Calm; Be Safe

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By John Francis

Things were pretty quiet in Tobermory on Victoria Day weekend. I was surprised to hear from our correspondent Joanne Rodgers that there were a lot of city people in Lion’s Head.

But the following weekend, people seem to have gotten over their shock about the lockdown. The Premier started loosening the restrictions and all the weekend warriors could feel the wind in their sails.

The parking lot in front of my house — for “The Tugs” dive site — is politely posted “Area Closed Due To COVID 19”. Not barricaded with emergency tape, just politely posted. That was enough on Victoria Day but it ended there.

On the weekend after Victoria Day, the ten-or-so “closed” parking spaces in front of my house were full all Saturday afternoon and much of the evening. You could see, and later, hear, the celebratory atmosphere. People were swimming, snorkeling, SCUBA diving and having picnics. Somebody built a fire in the cracks in the rocks. People were way too close to each other. They made noise, left garbage, left burn scars on the rocks.

Bylaw Enforcement did not try to roust the visitors. As the saying goes, discretion is the better part of valour. I don’t think rousting would have gone very well.

But this issue is not going to go away. There will, weather permitting, be even more people next weekend. And more again the weekend after that. And on the Canada Day “long weekend”, July 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, it’s gonna be nuts.

They had a much more pronounced problem in Trinity-Bellwoods Park in Toronto; I’m sure you’ve seen the photos. But even that paled by comparison to gatherings in Missouri.

Urban people have had enough of lockdown and given the opportunity, they will get out and celebrate.

And here we are in Northern Bruce Peninsula, spread out so thinly that half of us can’t even see our neighbours. This sort of space is wonderful, but let’s not get smug about it.

People in the cities don’t live in cramped apartments because they are morally defective. They live in cramped apartments because they don’t have a choice.

Some city people are lucky enough to have cottages. They can come up here and make themselves at home. They pay taxes and have a right to be here.

But the people who are jammed into a one-bedroom and manage to borrow somebody’s car for a Saturday excursion to MNBP? They don’t live here. By definition that makes them less fortunate. Do we really want to discriminate against the less fortunate?

And if they don’t practise proper social distancing? Maybe some of them won’t. But I smoked cigarettes until I was 32 years old. Where do I get off, telling young people they are being stupid?

Parks Canada have closed their attractions until further notice. That means a lot of people are going to end up in Lion’s Head and Tobermory instead, looking for something — anything — more interesting than their basement one-bedroom. They are going to be a bit clueless about how distanced we have become accustomed to being. But they aren’t evil; they’re just desperate to escape their one-bedroom.

As my grandmother used to say, “This too shall pass”. Maybe just stand back, let them swarm by and resume normal life in the fall.

Is there some way we can give them room to spread out? Close streets to cars?

I sure don’t envy the Bylaw Enforcement folk. Nor do I envy MNBP Council who have to make decisions for the Bylaw folk to implement and enforce. Nor the front-line workers who will have to serve the swarm.

I think of BC Public Health official, Dr Bonnie Henry, constantly reminding people: “Be kind; be calm; be safe.”