Mr. Mario Dumont: Canada and the borders [“Le Canada et les frontières”]

The text further below is a translation of an article by Mr. Mario Dumont (Journal de Montréal; March 13, 2020):

When Mr. Trump decided to close the border to flights from Europe, Bambi immediately thought to herself: Well, now some passengers may try to return to the USA via Canada. They can easily spread the virus here in their transit. Indeed, it seems that, at the time of writing, we have not started screening passengers upon their arrival to Canadian airports, as in other countries (including Lebanon).

Independent of this health worldwide crisis, Bambi has always thought of a country’s borders as being like our skin (or mucus), which is usually the first line of defence of our immune system.  

Of course, the idea is not to over-react to unharmful substances (i.e., anaphylactic shock reactions in cases of extremes allergies). It is rather to have an optimally functional defense that would recognize what is part of the self and what is not (foreign substances or antigens). At present, we are literally talking about a new pathogen, which is the COVID-19 virus. So, the analogy with the immune system is even more relevant.

Why is Bambi saying all this? Because she knows what can happen when borders are not well-demarcated or poorly protected (i.e., the history of wars/invasions in Lebanon).

Plus, from a strictly psychological point of view, when we have high self-respect, we value ourselves enough to have “healthy borders” between us and others. We discern between what belongs to us (our responsibility) and what belongs to others (not under our own responsibility or control).

Anyhow, all this being said, here is Mr. Mario Dumont’s article that Bambi enjoyed reading upon waking up this morning. That was before Mr. Trudeau’s speech, in which thankfully he seems to want to take slightly more serious measures with regard to airports, even if he did not provide more details. By the way, talking about Mr. Trudeau, Bambi wishes his spouse a speedy recovery (“une bonne guérison”!):

“We love the image of Canada as an open country. Trump-style paranoia that lead him to want to build a wall with the neighbour doesn’t appeal to us. And that is a good thing. However, there is a limit to our so-called “openness”, and COVID-19 reminds us why a border management policy is needed in a so-called serious country.

Borders must prevent criminals from easily entering our country. Borders must protect our notion of citizenship, which must be obtained through a legal immigration process. And borders also play an important role in health. When a deadly virus threatens human health, this health component becomes even more important.

This is by far the weakest part of Justin Trudeau’s policy on COVID-19. Its corporate announcements are holding water for now. The measures to financially support the provinces are also valid and useful, paving the way for essential collaboration between the levels of government.

Not serious

However, laxity at our airports has been observed for weeks now. We have heard, over and over again, the testimony of people from areas heavily affected by the virus. They were all surprised by the lack of checks, screening tests, or even questions.

In some of these cases, people returned to Canada with a nice “hello”. At best, they were asked if they had a fever, and then they were given an explanatory pamphlet. No detailed questions about their health, no temperature measurement, nothing.

We do not even take care to sit down with these people to talk to them about the seriousness of the situation, their responsibility as citizens or about the measures to be taken to protect others. We also don’t bother to write down their contact details, so we can keep in touch with them in the event of an outbreak.

Lived example

Yesterday on LCN, I received two 19-year-old girls who were returning from Northern Italy, one of the most affected areas. They used the expression “in shock” to describe their amazement at the lack of preventive measures taken when they arrived at the airport. They expected a protocol, and were ready to collaborate, having experienced in Italy the impacts of the spread of the coronavirus.

When 19-year-olds are worried about the authorities’ lack of rigour, I guess there is a problem…

The problem is only going to get worse with President Trump’s decision to suspend all flights from Europe. There will be a great temptation for some travelers to go through Canadian airports.

About 90% of infected people are travellers, let’s be clear. I do not want to see Canada acting like Matamore to shut the door to all of Europe unilaterally. Except that the current laxity is no longer acceptable when we are asking our society for so many sacrifices.”

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