In the past few weeks we’ve heard this line a lot: “Canadians are resilient and we’ll get through this together.”
I don’t disagree with the statement but the two international stories – the coronavirus outbreak and the Nova Scotia mass shooting – have outlined how ill-prepared the Canadian government is when dealing with a crisis. They’ve also illustrated how a public can lose faith in its leaders.
When stories break, the media doesn’t usually have time to be critical of how officials react and respond to an event. It’s when the dust settles (oftentimes even before) that the scrutiny is in full force.
In Nova Scotia, it was the response time that quickly caught the eyes of reporters. While watching a press conference and seeing RCMP members stumbling to answer questions and constantly conferring away from the podium, I knew right away the press would jump on the police preparedness.
At issue, was the timing of public alerts that local RCMP sent out. The police reps were grilled about why the country’s emergency alert system wasn’t used. (You know the one: The first time it was tested more than half the cellphone users in Canada didn’t get the test message. And the system that makes your phone screech in the middle of the night when a kid across the country goes missing.)
The big question: Why was Twitter used and not the official alert system when hundreds, if not thousands, of people’s lives were potentially in danger?
How many people at 5 a.m. on Sunday or scrolling Twitter to find out if there’s neighbourhood danger? I wouldn’t think it’s very many people but I could be wrong. Turns out, public outcry shows that I’m correct in my belief.
Police said they use the social media platform as their communication tool. In the 12 hours that the weekend rampage played out, RCMP admitted they were in the process of crafting an alert – as if to sound like they needed an author or a literary scholar to proofread it to get the OK – when the gunman was confirmed dead. I repeat: 12 hours, no “official” emergency alert.
Most of us can agree that getting an alert about a terrorist in our neighbourhood is more important than a kid who ran away from home three provinces over. Sure, nobody wants a child to happen upon danger, but if you could pick and choose which alerts you receive locally, it would be something playing out in your own backyard… literally.
The argument can be made that the police force was caught off guard and didn’t expect something like this to happen in those sleepy East Coast towns. You know what, Taber, Alta. said the same thing when it became a household name thanks to its school shooting in 1999.
It’s not acceptable to say, “We weren’t prepared for something like this.” Citizens don’t have patience when people outsmart or outwit the authorities. A virus caught governments off guard and look how citizens had little remorse for officials crying the same thing.
I realize that it’s impossible to predict every single thing that could happen in the world, but perhaps more work should be done in preparing for events that could be considered national tragedies. Contestants on Big Brother are told to “expect the unexpected” so shouldn’t people protecting our communities have the same mindset?