Monday, September 25, 2023
Tom Marazzo's book "The People's Emergency Act" is available through Amazon. It became an overnight best seller when it was released in early September.
Guest ContributionsOpinion/ColumnTrucking

Why did Canada ignore decades of Emergency Management experience during COVID?

Full public inquiry into Canada’s pandemic response is needed

Retired Canadian military member and author Tom Marazzo.

By Tom Marazzo

Canada is approaching the three-year anniversary of its first case of COVID-19. Over time, it has become increasingly clear that COVID represented not just a public health issue, but a crisis in governance and democratic values. COVID forced Canadians to face the fact that government systems they trusted unquestioningly are not functioning as smoothly as we had all assumed.

For example, long before COVID appeared, expert, professional Emergency Management Organizations (EMOs) already existed in every province and territory. They’ve battled wildfires in Alberta, ice storms in British Columbia, and floods in Manitoba. They maintain constant contact with each other, and with their federal, municipal, and international counterparts. They partner with public sector agencies and private sector businesses.

EMOs were designed and developed over decades to handle exactly the kind of multidimensional crisis that COVID presented. Yet, they were inexplicably excluded from the planning and execution of pandemic strategies at the very moment they were needed most. Why? Canadians deserve to know the answer to this question.

LCol. (Ret’d) David Redman, former head of Alberta Emergency Management, was among the first to bring this critical issue to light, first in letters written to every Premier and later, in his testimony at the National Citizen’s Inquiry.  

Redman emphasized, “Emergency Management principles are the foundation of how we respond to every type of hazard, every emergency. The staff are trained, they’re competent, they’re capable.

“Pandemics happen continuously. This wasn’t our first; we have huge documentation from five previous pandemics. We’ve made massive lessons learned both in emergency management and in public health. All of this was all thrown away (during COVID),” Redman testified with chagrin.

“Public Health never runs Emergency Management,” Redman told the NCI. “Of course they are a part of it; but they never run it.” Image: NCI

“My bottom line in terms of principles is pandemics are always public emergencies because they affect all the public…public health should never have been in charge of all of society. They’re responsible for the health care system.”

Redman emphasized: “EMO staff have some fundamental principles. The very first one: you control fear. You never, ever, ever use fear.”

In contrast, our government, through the media, used fear 24/7 as their primary compliance tool. They sowed the division and mistrust which harming our society to this day.

Given the fact of Canada’s failure to use its own Emergency Management Operations, an independent public inquiry with full authority to compel witnesses and demand unredacted documents  is not only appropriate; it is necessary. The public has a right to know why their governments chose not to use the fully prepared and trained EMOs. An inquiry would shed light on this egregious failure of judgment, helping to ensure such a mistake is not repeated in future crises.

The roots of Canada’s current societal upheaval can be traced directly back to the government’s flawed pandemic response. By failing to involve the EMOs and by attempting to invent and impose new, unproven, painfully disruptive public health strategies, government not only created an environment ripe for social discord, it actually provoked outrage. This is the ultimate indicator of failure in any action.

Now, it seems that the authoritarian tendencies exhibited by Canada during COVID are becoming entrenched in government. In Alberta, four men have spent over 565 days in remand without bail. This situation is grave: when China had imprisoned The Two Michaels for this long, Canadians protested in outrage.

The trial of Tamara Lich and Chris Barber symbolizes the punishment of democratic dissent in a nation that used to pride itself on free speech. The disturbing reality is that they have become reluctant symbols of a government’s failure to properly manage a crisis. It is was government’s failure that has ignited protests and threatens the democracy we hold dear.

The time for a comprehensive reassessment is now, and it should start with a full public inquiry into why the Emergency Management Operations were sidelined during COVID. It should hold the government accountable for its mishandling of the crisis and the ensuing breakdown of social cohesion and democratic values.


Tom Marazzo is the author of “The People’s Emergency Act,” which is available in paperback and hard cover on Amazon.