Protest … where it counts!

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Fred Ryan
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist


Fred Ryan
Éditorialiste Invitée
Guest Editorialist

Two street protests against pandemic restrictions, in Fort-Coulonge and Shawville, have stimulated public comment. And criticism – many participants, generally, were not following the health rules (masks and a two-metre distance). The SQ were careful to warn protestors of the rules, without aggravating
emotions and stimulating further disturbance.
How do local protestors expect their actions to affect Quebec-wide law and its enforcement? Several told this newspaper that since Pontiac’s COVID caseload is so low, the restrictions which hurt local businesses are unnecessary – and infringe personal liberty. Fort-Coulonge lost much of its retail business years ago, since so many locals drove to Pembroke to shop; if Coulonge residents were demanding access to "local shops", where would they be? Or do these folks consider shopping in Ontario as "supporting local business"? A little late, decades late
really, to protect local businesses! Where have these protestors been
shopping over the years? Locally, in Fort-Coulonge?  We wish.
Plus, if the protestors want their communities opened up, is it so we can suffer the same infection rates now bombarding Gatineau, Aylmer, Ottawa, and Renfrew? If Gatineau and Ottawa are "red", changing the Pontiac to orange or yellow would be
a big invitation for city people to head up here – bars open, large gatherings
permitted, etc. Local protestors want city crowds here? 
Speaking out, protesting, is everyone’s right – and duty, sometimes – but there are other ways to object to rules without endangering the protestors’ own and
others’ health. The pandemic will not be over quickly, even with vaccines, so restrictions will be with us. We have elections coming – and they are the effective way to obtain real change. Municipal elections are here this fall, and a federal election may be on the agenda; Quebec is next year, at the latest. 
Elections are designed to effect long-term change. To be effective, we should be preparing now – what are each party’s proposals? – for the pandemic, the recovery, and their entire legislative programs? Focusing on a single issue leaves too many other issues hanging. Single-issue action can lead to shell games, not improvements.
Second, if we wish to use our critical abilities, there is no better place than being critical of what we ourselves are doing on social media – our own posts and comments, what we listen to, believe without research, and pass along to others. These protests were apparently organized on Facebook amid a mish-mash of opinions on all subjects, starting with pandemic response. Be critical toward what we are reading on-line – and what we ourselves are posting. 
Speaking up is obligatory for citizens of a democracy, but with researched opinions. What we wish, suspect, or fear are not objective facts about the world itself; shooting our mouths off because we feel angry doesn’t do much
good, even if it’s a "right".
It spreads this terrible virus.