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GUEST OPINION: A double standard for who gets to self-isolate in hotel rooms

The Lookout Inn in New Glasgow. - William Aube/Special to The Guardian
The Lookout Inn in New Glasgow. - William Aube/Special to The Guardian

Did you catch the double standard that was reported recently? The reported plan is that the Chief Public Health Office is collaborating to house hundreds of returning out-of-province and international post-secondary students for their 14-day COVID-19 self-isolation period in off-campus hotel rooms. (P.E.I. considering hotels for returning students needing to isolate, The Guardian, July 7). The story revealed that UPEI and Holland College are working with public health on a plan similar to what is in place for temporary foreign workers.

By contrast, it was reported in March that a rural inn was providing needed accommodations for returning Islanders. That is, tax-paying Canadian citizens who sought to comply with the public health directive to self-isolate. The proprietors of The Lookout Inn at New Glasgow designated units with separate entrances for Islanders to self-isolate. John and Nicole Mitchell, who operate the inn, sought clearance and obtained what appeared to be the green light; but that would be rescinded. Once the arrangements the Mitchells had in place was reported, social media lit up with negative commentary. Those sentiments – public opinion, not the science – was enough to put the kibosh on the arrangement. (P.E.I. couple hosting people in quarantine at their inn, The Guardian, March 31).

An environmental health officer with the Chief Public Health Office was quoted as saying: “to date a number of concerns have been received from the public […].”  Concern, rational or otherwise, was all that was need to order the Mitchells to cease and desist. The Mitchells were denied an opportunity to infuse some probably much needed revenue to their business and their earnest efforts to provide a much-needed service to Islanders were denied.

The UPEI student union has called for a more streamlined process for international and domestic students returning to studies in P.E.I.  As the advocates for the students who attend the university, they are right to do so and they are being proactive in lobbying several weeks in advance of Labour Day. Returning students need to know the drill.

While we see processes developed to facilitate the arrival of temporary foreign workers and out of province students, there is no such concerted effort for Joe. How is that when the private sector offers a viable option, that option is eliminated because of public sentiment?  How is it that summer is rapidly passing and there is no concerted effort to accommodate Joe so he can return to visit aging parents? And how is it that those aging parents continue to remain trapped inside care homes after months of isolation with only weeks before autumn breezes will begin to blow?

It becomes apparent that there is an ugly double standard in government’s approach to its own citizens like Joe. It’s been 20 years since Joe appeared on his soapbox in Molson Canadian spots to clarify all the misconceptions Americans hold about Canadians. Joe doesn’t live in an igloo, or own a dogsled. Joe believes in peace keeping, not policing and diversity and not assimilation. Joe wears a toque, sits on a chesterfield and pronounces the last letter of the alphabet ZED just like everywhere else in the British Commonwealth. Yet for all Joe’s progressiveness there is the absence of a reciprocal relationship; Joe’s embrace of the progressive values of diversity and inclusion is met not with a fair-minded response to consider what Joe wants. Instead there is this double standard in which Joe is disadvantaged, sidelined and unrepresented.

Brian Doyle of Charlottetown has provided administrative support and communications direction in non-profit, corporate and public environments and has worked extensively in public engagement and community relations for the oil and gas sector and a public agency.

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