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Fear not but take a look

Connecting the Dots: a personal opinion column
Anne Davison, reporter/editor

On Nov. 28, 2023 the National Citizens’ Inquiry (NCI) released their findings.

The what? you ask. And that’s understandable because despite the breadth and scope of this Canada-wide hearing, there has been very, very little about it in our national broadcaster, the CBC, or any mainstream media companies. And that is why I bring you this news.

Covid affected everyone. As ‘knowledgeable’ people talk about the next pandemic, it should make us want to know more about the trauma we’ve just been through. How many times do we hear, “It’s so great to be able to hold this event now…”?

So in asking questions about the Covid years we are by definition looking into government policy, messaging and what happened to freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry and a host of other freedoms that presuppose that people in Canada are educated, can think for themselves and are in general responsible citizens.

The National Citizens Inquiry (NCI) involved the testimony of 94 experts in their field among a total of 305 witnesses. Yes, business people, educators and some very ordinary folks also had the opportunity to testify to the commission.

The inquiry began in March of 2023 in Truro, Nova Scotia. Hearings were held east to west including within French Canada and across the Prairies. It was termed citizen led and citizen funded.

Moderator Shawn Buckley, the NCI lead counsel, introduced a CPAC video, a virtual news conference where inquiry commissioners from the inquiry into Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic presented their final report.

In this short opinion piece, I will but introduce the fact of the NCI. The commissioners have produced a huge document. The video itself is not short either, but there’s a transcript attached to the video if you prefer reading.

Buckley spoke on behalf of Chesley Crosbie a member of the Citizens Inquiry Canada Board of Directors. Crosbie is a Member of the Bar of Newfoundland and Labrador and has served in the legislature.

Speaking strictly as a citizen, I feel compelled to look past the common narratives. I am interested in what the commission found. I make no attempt to go further today than simply introducing it.

In his intro, Buckley said that the inquiry rules enabled interested people to participate. “We issued summons after summons after summons to government officials inviting them to attend and participate. But not a single government official chose to attend.”

If this NCI is part of the historical record, so is the absence of our elected representatives. As Buckley said, “Their absence speaks loudly.”

He said the NCI is unique in its scope, “giving voice to people from across Canada… all questioned by lawyers and by the commissioners.”

Buckley termed the NCI “the largest, most robust record of the Covid experience in the world” adding,  “and we did this in a climate of fear.”

Oh yes, from the onset of the March news of a pandemic, fear and anxiety were overt. If you didn’t mind that you couldn’t visit your senior family in a nursing home, or attend their sick bed, hold a wedding, or that you had to work all day in a mask, or couldn’t have family for Christmas, or even for an outdoor barbecue – if that didn’t bother you, then you don’t need to look into the National Citizens Inquiry findings.

If closing schools and the ensuing disruption to education is a concern, if you were seriously affected by the economic chaos, or if other things troubled you about how COVID-19 was handled you might find the NCI report to be an important document. 

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