Empathy in action: Ottawa under COVID-19

Submitted by Joel Harden,

MPP Ottawa Centre 


It’s been a wild and unsettling time. A global pandemic some believed was confined overseas arrived in Canada quickly.

Life normally flashes from pillar to post. Now the minutes of the day stick together as we stay home, and scour for news of the latest updates. 

Canada’s public health care system has been our first line of defense. Its front line staff are our guardian angels, and we are thankful for their efforts every day, never more so than now. 

Thank you to Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa public health officials, and front line workers helping those directly impacted by COVID-19. Brewer Arena is a place of hope for those in distress. 

Thank you nurses, personal support workers, hospital cleaners and support staff, doctors, orderlies, administrators, and other health care professionals. Thank you first responders — paramedics, firefighters and police. We see you pulling long hours, and we understand this means great sacrifice from you and your families. 

Thank you grandmothers and grandfathers who fought for the public health care system that protects us today. A brief glance at the United States reminds us of what could have been without your wise decisions. 

Thank you neighbours for looking after each other. Thanks for dropping off food and support to those unable to do so themselves. 

Thank you friends from the Parkdale Food Centre who have supported so many vulnerable people, including 500 folks stuck in emergency housing at the Travelodge Hotel on Carling Avenue. Thanks for bringing food, puzzles, games and smiles. 

Thank you friends from the Good Companions Seniors Centre and Ottawa West Seniors Services who’ve mobilized fast to help low-income elders across our city. There are strong women leading these groups who protect those who built everything we enjoy today. 

Thank you donors and small businesses who have enabled this work. We are seeing incredible generosity being mobilized across the city. It gives hope for what we can accomplish on so many other fronts. 

Thank you parents and caregivers working hard to balance employment and family. It’s not easy to create a fun day inside, even with brief trips outdoors. This is even harder for kids with disabilities or special needs. But children are vectors for illnesses, and staying home is making a difference. Keep at it.

Ottawa is such a compassionate city. I am thankful for all that has happened here to date in response to COVID-19, and mindful of what must be done in government policy to enable even more. 

Moves have been made at the provincial and federal level which offer a good first step. As Ontario’s Critic for People with Disabilities, Seniors, and Accessibility, I know we can do even better, notably, for those without much in employment income. 

Canada is a rich country with vast resources. More of those resources must be shared to ensure no one gets left behind as we urge social distancing. 

This is a test of solidarity. Let’s pass it together.

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