It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month that most of us have been living in these current circumstances created by Covid-19. It was about a month ago that we saw schools being closed, people being told to work from home, being laid off and worse. It’s been a month of spending a lot of time inside, under the stresses that come from dealing with these circumstances. It’s not been easy for most to deal with, and understandably so.
This period has also raised many questions about things we thought we might never need to question. The biggest of those has been our relationship with our neighbours in the United States, given the actions taken by the Trump Administration in the past few weeks, which I have had a lot to say about here. From swiping PPE on airport tarmacs in Asia, to trying to force American companies to stop selling PPE to us, to wanting to send the US Army to our borders, we’ve seen some very disturbing actions from this president at probably the worst possible moment. It’s strained relationship, frayed nerves and insulted many Canadians to the point where our relationship might not ever be the same after this.
But there are times that we need to remind ourselves that any government or President is not the full representation of their people, nor to many of their citizens agree with their approaches. We need to remember that many of our neighbours so close to us understand our feelings, and even agree with them. It’s good to remember that to help us remember that we are not alone and there is a lot of good out there, even right to the south of us. It was with that in mind that I came across two stories from my home region of Northwestern Ontario that really reminded me of that. The first is about as neighbourly as one gets:
My mom and her family grew up in Rainy River, on the border with Minnesota. Through out the Rainy River district, which includes Fort Frances, there have always been close ties. People live, work and play on both sides of the Rainy River that acts as the international border there. We have family, friends and business partners on both sides. It’s a close relationship that has not always been the easiest to maintain in the past 20 years as our borders have gotten firmer, but those long-established ties have not died away.
In this case we saw Cantilever Distillery in Ranier, Minnesota donate 80 gallons of sanitizer to Riverside Healthcare in Fort Frances, Ontario. Working with support from three levels of government, along with guidance from the folks at Canada Border Services Agency, Cantilever Distillery was able to export sanitizer from the USA and into Canada. What makes this story even more heartwarming is the history behind it. Over 100 years ago Canadians would send moonshine across that same river into the US, to help wet the whistles of their neighbours. Well in 2020, a bit of the favour was returned as hand sanitizer made the reverse trip across the Rainy River. It went across in buckets from Canadian Tire, going to help those fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on our side of the border.
When it comes to our American neighbours, that’s what we’ve always been used to, that help in a time of need and caring for on another. It’s that interdependence, knowing that we are better together. So I must admit I smiled a bit when I saw this next story from CBC Thunder Bay, with an interesting proposition coming from a very warm sentiment:
There have always been jokes over the years about different parts of the US maybe joining Canada, and vice versa, and they mostly bring a good smile to the face. And in this case, this story about some in Cook County, Minnesota suggesting that Canada annex it too brings that smile. But it was what brought the suggestion on that really brought a reassuring smile to my face. According to the CBC Thunder Bay piece, what pushed Bryan Hansel of Grand Marais, the person who sent that Tweet, put it into the world was “when Trump said that he was going to cut off shipments of PPE to Canada.” He said it “seemed like a way to stand in solidarity with our neighbours”, which you must admit is a lovely sentiment in these hard, dark days.
I’m sure there are many other examples out there of similar things, but I think that these are the kinds of stories that we need to hear right now. They remind us that we are not alone on this continent in this fight and that despite what their federal government may say or do, many Americans who are our closet neighbours do stand with us, just as we have been for them. It’s easy to lose sight of that in these times, but these stories serve as a good reminder of the beams of light that are out there, no matter how small they may be. And just as we’ll remember those bad acts that we’ve spoken about a lot in the past few weeks, we’ll remember these good ones too. We’ll remember them with warm hearts and when our time comes to help, we’ll be here to do our part for those who helped us.