Please just stop it
By Chad Ingram
Stressful times can bring out both the best and worst in people.
Certainly during the COVID-19 crisis we've seen incredible demonstrations of community support and spirit in Haliburton County. We've also seen, for nearly the past two months, an ugly feud that seems to play out again and again on the social media feeds of this newspaper and its sister publication, a feud that is extremely divisive and helpful to absolutely no one.
The impetus for this ongoing public feud seems to have been a letter from the physicians of the Haliburton Highlands issued in March, asking seasonal residents to consider the limited medical resources of the community before deciding to make a visit. To be clear, no one was told to stay away. No one was told they weren't allowed to come to their cottages. Municipalities don’t possess such an authority. At the time seasonal residents were asked, politely, by a group of medical doctors and local governments, as well as the premier, to reconsider coming to cottage country amid the outbreak.
What followed were some angry reactions on our Facebook feeds that can be collectively paraphrased as essentially, “How dare you! I pay property taxes!”
That was followed up by equally unhelpful comments from some year-round residents telling seasonal residents to stay away, and also a number of cases of incorrectly casting baseless aspersions that the few confirmed cases of COVID-19 we've had in the county – there have been seven so far, all resolved – were likely brought here by seasonal residents. And on and on. It's been divisive, vitriolic at times, and supremely unhelpful in a time that is already very stressful for everyone.
It's gotten to the point where I can't post a seemingly innocuous story to the paper's Facebook page without the feud resurfacing.
A few weeks ago I posted a story about local lake associations donating tens of thousands of dollars to food banks. “Aren't these the same people you have told to stay home?” wrote one commenter.
Last week I wrote a column asking people to support local businesses. The very first response to that column? “After the disrespecting attitude posted on Facebook from some full-time residents I will be getting all the food and supplies I need in the city.” That led to another manifestation of the feud.
These are the types of comments that have been littering our social media feeds for the past couple of months. I use the term “litter” very intentionally, since it's useless, inane garbage that is a waste of everyone's time and energy.
One reader even called on the paper to start moderating an argument, as if it's our job to referee a bunch of adults fighting like children on social media. You know what our job is? To write newspaper stories about the deadly virus that is shaking the fabric of our society. What utterly ridiculous behaviour. Please just stop it.
The messaging from the province and many local governments has since changed, that being, essentially, come to your seasonal property, just exercise caution, so hopefully everyone can get on with their lives now.
As Haliburton County Warden Liz Danielsen has said, “Remember that we all have equal rights and are going through this struggle together. Finger pointing and accusations will ultimately hurt the reputation that we have all worked so hard to create, not just a beautiful place to create memories, but a place that truly welcomes visitors year round.”