COVID-19 has contaminated virtually every aspect of our lives in 2020. No wonder the pandemic was chosen as New Brunswick’s event of the year by the Acadie Nouvelle editorial board.
Since mid-March, the coronavirus has influenced, from near or far, the actions of everyone in the province. Beyond statistics, daily cases and confined regions, this pandemic is also these masked faces.
Faces of mourning, of combat, of fear, of loneliness, of solidarity.
Taking this opportunity to wish you a much better year 2021, we present five of them to you.
His father’s photo
Michel Ouellette and his father Daniel, some time before he died of COVID-19. – Courtesy
In front of his graphic designer office in Campbellton, Michel Ouellette has placed the photo of his father Daniel.
Every time he looks at her, the emotions take over. The anecdotes too. It’s hard to lose your father.
It’s even harder to lose him to COVID-19. Cruel. Awful. Foolish.
On June 4, Daniel left this Earth. He was 84 years old. It was the first death in New Brunswick linked to the coronavirus.
“It’s cruel. It is a very cruel disease. And getting through it is not easy, “admits her son.
A death like no other. The family were unable to visit Daniel in the hospital. Four days earlier, she received a call from Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville to tell them that their father was unconscious. The diagnosis that followed, relentless …
The virus attacked one lung first, then the other.
“The doctor called us to tell us that his test was positive. He explained the procedures to us… We couldn’t go see him. I was the one who brought him to see the doctor. My father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but he still recognized us. Four days later … It’s awful. It’s something that I don’t wish on anyone, ”he says with emotion.
This tragedy was tough not only for him, but also for his brothers and sisters. His mother did not understand what was happening.
“When you sit down and think about it, it still hurts so much. But we have to go on living … I have his picture in front of me. I always think about it, ”he adds, his voice dead with the ever-present mourning.
What does he get out of it? Michel Ouellette invites the community to be careful, because COVID-19 is not to be taken lightly. He can attest to that.
“It’s crazy how people still don’t want to understand how dangerous this is. They take so many risks… It’s hard to accept. See what’s going on in Toronto or Montreal. It looks like these people are ignorant and think no beyond their noses, “he thinks.
The Ouellette family therefore spends their first holidays without the father. It’s already difficult in itself. As is due to COVID-19, it is worse. It’s cruel.
A mayor must be strong
Charles Bernard – Archives
“The Third world war…”
Charles Bernard took some time to find the right words to qualify the pandemic. But its comparison says it all.
The mayor of Balmoral and chair of the Forum des maires du Restigouche has found himself, unwillingly, at the heart of the action twice, “courtesy” of two major outbreaks.
In his mind, the common enemy of the planet was an experience he never thought he would have.
Things have been difficult for the Restigouche. The second crisis was far more morally damaging than the first, he admits. And as mayor, he has always been in the thick of it, just like his colleagues in other towns and villages.
“Some have passed the crisis better than others,” he said after nine months of severe restrictions. It was complicated for everyone. Yes, there was social media, but it’s not the same as physical presence. The impact on morale was more severe in the second outbreak because it could have been prevented. “
Both in Balmoral and elsewhere in the province, the pandemic has affected the economy and the social safety net of communities. The activities where hundreds of people were gathering suddenly stopped. People had to be kept safe and reminded of restrictive measures.
The role of elected officials was to temporize the fear of citizens, he could see through this experience. You had to be strong. A mayor does not panic. This is not written into his task definition.
Also delay the look of other regions. At one point, the Restigouchois were placed in the hot seat in the face of “this sneaky weapon that strikes quickly and without warning,” notes Mr. Bernard.
“On the other hand, the Restigouche may have had some experiences before others that may have served Premier Blaine Higgs and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell in adjusting the fight in other regions. Being guinea pigs isn’t fun, I admit, but it made it possible to do things differently. In the end, I think we will come out of this growing up and with better respect for others, ”said the elected official.
Fear of a sneaky virus
Isabelle-Anne Girouard with her daughters Alexie, 16 months old, and Jovie, 3 years old. – Courtesy
First there was fear. The fear of the Unknown. The fear of catching him. But fear is often what keeps things going.
Isabelle-Anne Girouard is an emergency intensive care physician at the Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital in Moncton. In the region of the first outbreak of COVID-19.
The hospital environment could have given in to panic as soon as the first patients affected by this pandemic appeared. But that was not the case. Fortunately for that matter.
“As a doctor, I can say that I have worked in a safe environment,” says the 33-year-old emergency physician from Dieppe who regularly reviews safety protocols. We are well protected. ”
Masks, visors, intensive hand washing have been the lot of doctors and nurses in all hospitals in the province since March. Once the principle of the spread of COVID-19 was understood, different work became a habit and the staff got it right.
“The patients were well looked after,” says Dr. Girouard. We weren’t afraid because it was written COVID-19 on their file. We can work with confidence. It must be said that we were lucky in NB, because we have not reached the point of staff overwork, as we are currently seeing in Quebec or Alberta. If we go into the red phase with a major outbreak, however, it will be difficult for our health system. In the event that this happens here as in Quebec, it is scary. We have very hard working soldiers on the battlefield. They do an amazing job. ”
But it’s still a tough time. Especially when a COVID-19 patient is isolated from their family while they are recovering… or during their last days.
“The hardest part is seeing these patients who unfortunately cannot have a visit. When you are about to die and you cannot see anyone, then it is very difficult. Even though patients can talk on the phone, it’s not like being there, in person, ”said the one who had the disease herself, along with her partner and two young daughters, in November.
The heavy loneliness of isolation
Victor Anfossi, from the Residence Aux Doouces Marées in Bas-Caraquet. – Courtesy
At the end of the line, Victor Anfossi is in a very good mood, despite the heavy loneliness of isolation. He and his wife Lucie feel like they are in heaven at the Résidences Aux Douces Marées in Bas-Caraquet. They have a nice bedroom with two beds, a living room and all the necessary amenities.
“We are treated very well. It’s like a five-star hotel, ”says the 87-year-old Italian retiree, who has been in love with Acadia and a woman from Val-Comeau for 46 years.
Except that since March, their releases have been very rare. Monsieur was not able to go often to his son’s garage in Caraquet, where his wood tower is installed. And when he was able to go, his boy, his wife and two children were to be absent.
The interview is done by phone. Even a journalist cannot enter the residence under the current conditions. This is for families only. It is understandable.
Inside, “no fooling around,” says Anfossi. The attendants wear the mask at all times. The rules of distance are respected to the letter. Everything is cleaned from top to bottom.
“There are some who find it harder than us, I think. But we don’t talk too much about it. Yes, COVID-19 is scary. We haven’t had any friends who had him here. We are well protected, that is the main thing, “he says.
The Acadian Peninsula has yet to be on the pandemic radar in nearly 10 months. The region is in the yellow phase. In particular, this means that visits are restricted to only family members in nursing homes and residences for the elderly.
Victor Anfossi sees his son Michel every weekend. They talk to each other on the phone every day. There may be a restaurant outing during the holidays, but that’s it. Be careful.
“You have to understand that what is being done is for our good,” says the man, who admits all the same that it will be a very bizarre holiday.
The pride of having contributed to the fight
Guy Gagnon, delivery man at the COOP Iga food market in Caraquet. – Acadie Nouvelle: Réal Fradette
Guy Gagnon has not looked at the mileage of the Coop IGA Caraquet delivery vehicle for a long time. This year the engine has been running at full throttle.
During the first two months of the pandemic, he delivered bags and sacks of food all over Grand Caraquet, and even further. Because of the lockdown, people were reluctant to go do their groceries for fear of catching the virus junk.
“We served the best we could,” he says proudly, hands behind the wheel. People appreciated. We tried to be the best we could be. I don’t know if we succeeded, but the world was happy. ”
Guy has done his part in the fight against COVID-19 and he is proud of it. The days were busy. From early in the morning until sometimes 7 p.m. This was constant, especially in the first weeks of the health crisis. There it is quieter.
“We were well organized,” he analyzes. It was going well. At first we had two vehicles and we weren’t stopping. We were doing the oil changes every two weeks. People have understood. They accepted the situation. But a lot was stressed. ”
Orders were on the doorstep within 24 hours. In Quebec, it could take four to five days in some regions.
“It’s worse than H1N1,” admits Guy Gagnon. People were more afraid. Even with the vaccine coming, they are afraid. It was produced in six months, whereas it normally takes two years. A virus like that comes every 10 years. It’s training for the next one, because never two without three. Personally, I wasn’t really scared, as my job was outside. But those who worked in the store, it was difficult at times. Some people did not understand and were throwing nonsense at us. “
Another delivery is on the schedule. She must not wait. Hop! The bags in the back of the vehicle. The mask on the face. Here he goes for another destination. For another small victory against COVID-19.
Event of the year 2020: the leading peloton
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic crushed everything in its path in the poll conducted with the Acadie Nouvelle newsroom team. Here are three more events that arguably would have been in the running if the year 2020 hadn’t been turned upside down by COVID-19.
The provincial elections of September 14
Outgoing Prime Minister Blaine Higgs and his wife Marcia. – Archives
Less than two years after seizing power from Brian Gallant, Blaine Higgs decided he was tired of being in the minority in the House. He played it all for all last summer, so he could rule on his own.
He first tried to convince the three opposition parties in order to ensure the long-term stability of his government. He was asking them to pledge not to bring him down until 2022 or the end of the pandemic.
In return, he offered them not to call a hasty election and to incorporate some of their priorities into his program.
High-tension negotiations took place in Fredericton in August. They failed when the leader of the Liberal Party, Kevin Vickers, slammed the door.
Blaine Higgs therefore switched to plan B and called for the dissolution of the Assembly in view of a poll on September 14th. In a short 28-day campaign, he gave very few details of his intentions and just vowed to build on the momentum.
Kevin Vickers and the Liberals have managed to narrow the gap between them and Progressive Conservatives in the polls a bit, but not completely. Voters ended up giving Blaine Higgs the majority he so coveted.
The Progressive Conservatives won 27 seats (but none in the North). The Liberals came far behind with 17 seats. Kevin Vickers failed to even get elected in Miramichi and announced his resignation that evening.
As for the Green Party, it won a larger percentage of the vote than in 2018, but only got its three incumbent MPs re-elected. The People’s Alliance lost support provincially and one of its three seats.
The tragic deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi
Dalton and Natasha Francis showed their support for the Moore and Levi families this summer at a protest. – Archives
In June, two tragedies shone the spotlight on New Brunswick and reminded us that it is not just in our neighbors to the south that members of minority communities fall under the bullets of law enforcement.
On June 4, Chantel Moore – a 26-year-old native from British Columbia – was shot dead by Edmundston police during what was supposed to be a welfare check.
Days later, on June 12, Rodney Levi was shot and killed during an RCMP operation near Miramichi. This member of the indigenous community of Metepenagiag was 48 years old.
Demonstrations were held to honor their memory as well as to denounce police violence and systemic racism. Indigenous leaders have pressured the Higgs government to launch a public inquiry into systemic racism in the justice system and the police.
The Prime Minister has met with Indigenous leaders but refused to launch a public inquiry into the issue. In December, the official opposition tabled a motion calling on the government to act.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn withdrew all mention of a public inquiry into systemic racism before the motion was passed.
New Brunswick’s Wolastoqi and Mi’kmaq leaders responded by calling for his resignation and slamming the door of a task force of First Nations and four party representatives in the Legislative Assembly.
The failed reform of rural emergencies
A few days after the government announced rural emergency reform, hundreds of people took to the streets (here in Grand Falls). – Archives
On February 11, the Progressive Conservative government of Blaine Higgs threw a paving stone in the water by announcing the emergency closures of six rural hospitals overnight.
The establishments affected were those of Caraquet, Grand-Sault, Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, Perth-Andover, Sussex and Sackville. This important change was to come into effect on March 11.
Resources used at night in emergency departments at these six hospitals were to be reallocated to day services, long-term care and mental health.
This reform of the Higgs government – which was in the minority in the legislature at the time – struck a chord and quickly sparked an outcry.
Deputy Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou, Robert Gauvin, tried to push the Prime Minister back. Faced with his refusal, he slammed the door of his party on February 14. Blaine Higgs thus lost his only member from the North (and the only francophone in his caucus).
The government backed down two days later. The Prime Minister put the changes on hold and announced consultations. Consultations that did not take place, since the pandemic turned everything upside down a month later.
Failed rural emergency reform followed Blaine Higgs for much of the year. During the provincial election campaign in August and September, the Liberals did everything to remind voters of this crisis.
On September 14, the Progressive Conservatives were completely whitewashed in the north (excluding Carleton-Victoria, part of which is north of Miramichi). They were unable to hang in Shippagan-Lamèque-Miscou and were thoroughly beaten in Caraquet.