Viewpoint: Don’t berate the messenger

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By JAN STEINMAN

EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative

In these troubled times, we all need to remember to “be safe, be calm, and be kind.”

Not everyone is doing so, and it harms our sense of community, and could cause more harm than the perceived loss of civil liberties, or even the very real loss of income.

I am a Saturday market farm vendor, and we have been looking forward to three organized markets in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Because they supply the essential product of food, farmers have been allowed to vend on Saturdays after the official close of the market season at the end of October by paying for a permit. In light of prior loosening of restrictions, it was hoped that the three Saturdays prior to Christmas would be opened to craft vendors, but a spike in COVID-19 cases caused the Ministry of Health to issue an order on Dec. 2 that implied only food products were to be sold at such markets.

Saturday market manager Dawn Larden spent a lot of quality time on the phone with the Ministry of Health, seeking clarification, and it was only Friday afternoon (Dec. 4) when she was informed that, indeed, only food products could be sold at the market. She notified all vendors of this requirement via email at 4:14 p.m.

Several craft vendors did not read this email, and showed up to vend at the market. When they were told they could not, they subjected Dawn to verbal abuse that looked as if it nearly had her in tears. 

We also understand that busking was not allowed. We noted a busker with a number of young, maskless people within six feet of him. I believe Dawn had earlier informed him that busking was not allowed.

It has become fashionable among a certain crowd to view public health orders as an affront to their civil liberties. Salt Spring has a large population of elders; if COVID-19 breaks out in an elder facility, whose civil liberties will be violated then? With serious illness or death in the balance, wearing a mask and following B.C. public health orders seems like a small sacrifice to make.

After consulting with Dawn, we voluntarily withdrew items (goat milk soap) from our tent that were not food items, resulting in significant loss of income. We do this in solidarity with those who only sell soap, while noting that they can apply for government relief to help them through these troubled times.

I am asking that Saturday market craft vendors “be kind” and not abuse the messenger, just because they don’t like the message. Dawn did not make the rules, and she does not deserve abuse for insisting that they follow the rules. They should take their complaints directly to the Ministry of Health and their elected officials, instead.

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