Trust the Experts… Or Not

The Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association (NSCLA) believes that all Nova Scotians have the fundamental right to make informed decisions regarding their civil liberties.  Since the NSCLA formed, we have been advocating for Nova Scotians to maintain these rights with respect to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the restrictions that were implemented, and still exist in various capacities.  On March 21, 2022, two years after a State of Emergency was declared in Nova Scotia, the emergency declaration was ended and many restrictions were lifted.  Nova Scotians, for the most part (though certainly not all), are now free to make their own choices about how to live with COVID-19. 

For many, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, was THE trusted authority on COVID-19.  Anyone who had ideas or opinions that were contrary, were told to “trust the experts.”  Dr. Strang was deemed to be the expert.  However, since March 21, 2022 we are now seeing those who once applauded Dr. Strang’s recommendations and expertise, questioning his decision to stand alongside Premier Houston and lift many restrictions.  Those, including Dr. Lisa Barrett and Liberal Party Leader Iain Rankin, are even advocating for restrictions to be re-implemented. It is now apparent that it isn’t the opinion of Dr. Strang or any other “experts” that are “trusted”.  It is solely the pro-restrictions stance they took that deemed them trusted and gave them a strong voice. Once they changed course their expertise is now questioned, trust in them wavering, signified by a barrage of media coverage amplifying the pro-restrictions voices that are now contrary to Dr. Strang’s formerly trusted expertise.  It’s noteworthy that those who disagreed with the positions that Dr. Strang has taken over the last two years were labelled conspiracy theorists, yet those who now disagree with him are elevated to “expert” status and given the megaphone. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

During the press conference on February 23, 2022 Premier Houston indicated that over the past two years our society has become divided and some personal relationships have been broken beyond repair.  He also noted there comes a point in time where the benefit of the restrictions is outweighed by the impact of those restrictions, and he felt we’d reached that point. The NSCLA may not agree with the timing (we reached that point long before), however, we welcome the sentiment going forward and agree that the collateral damage of restrictions far outweighs any perceived benefit they may offer. During the same press conference Dr. Strang spoke of how the restrictions were never meant to be a permanent solution and how we need to move away from living in a crisis response.  Parallel to Premier Houston, Dr. Strang’s advice was that we need to focus on a balanced approach going forward, one that not only considers how to limit the impact of COVID-19, but also the impact of the restrictions themselves on both our individual and collective well-being.

The NSCLA knows firsthand how COVID-19 restrictions have affected the physical, mental and economic well-being of so many Nova Scotians.  From those who have lost their careers,  to children who have missed out on extracurricular activities, to those who have not seen family members who reside in long term care for nearly six months, to those who were not able to say goodbye to their loved ones in hospital or even attend their funeral.  Innumerable moments and experiences have been lost that can never be recovered, and are still being lost to this day.  We need to demand better.  COVID-19 tunnel vision has aimed to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 at the expense of everything else life has to offer.  How many people were forced to die alone, just so they wouldn’t potentially die with COVID-19?  There is so much more to life than physical health, especially the physical health narrowly impacted by a single virus.  Long term care homes and hospitals have not allowed visitors without proof of vaccination for many months now, yet there have been non-stop outbreaks province-wide in these settings.  Masks have been forced on children in schools since September 2020, yet cases in schools are plentiful.  At some point we have to ask ourselves if this all makes sense?  Masked, vaccinated people are spreading COVID-19 in every setting across the Province, yet our children are still forced to mask and our old and sick are still not able to see their (unvaccinated) family before they die.  Why are we so willing, and even eager to make these cruel trade-offs in the name of physical safety, even when that safety is not guaranteed (or needed by most) by such measures?

The NSCLA recognizes that Dr. Strang and Premier Houston are now feeling significant pressure from those with a megaphone who continue to support restrictions and mandates.  The NSCLA reminds fellow Nova Scotians that health means much more than being free from COVID-19, something restrictions cannot provide anyway.  Just as Dr. Strang and Premier Houston have expressed, we need to embrace living with COVID-19, get back out there, and allow healthcare choices to become personal choices based on individual responsibility once again.