July 2021 newsletter

Holding onto the values of respect and integrity: the only way we will survive crisis…

As I ponder our future, I am both excited and overwhelmed with some of the events happening around us. We have seen courage and strength in the face of a harsh pandemic; yet this same phenomenon has brought out the worst in society. It has divided us across unnatural boundaries and laid bare some hostile prejudices. At its lowest ebb, Canada has also had to deal with the painful reality of unacknowledged graves in multiple first nation locations across the country. These are linked to mass graves created in an unfeeling manner by residential schools. Many of these schools were run by either the church or the government of the day. We have also seen hurtful incidents against Asians, and the death of a Muslim family because of a radical act in Ontario.

Who would think that the pandemic could catalyze such divisions? Interestingly, we have seen how vaccines have forced us to draw a “line in the sand” about risk and who we want to associate with. Whereas the vaccine was created to help and reduce risk, many have made the availability of the vaccine to be a horrific event, despite the data demonstrating how effectively this has reduced admissions and deaths. The regulations created around vaccination, restrictions and mask wearing, all done to assist public health to deal with COVID, have resulted in a divided society. Some feel that government has no right to enforce laws that impinge on personal freedoms; others comply and rationalize that doing these things will limit the impact of the virus on us in the longer term. The simmering discontent was let out of the bag as a result of COVID (my perspective).

So I come to the topic of this month’s newsletter with some trepidation, as I know many of us are struggling to understand about how to respond to these controversies. Let me be succinct and frank at the beginning- all I am suggesting in the newsletter is that we choose to enter into difficult, respectful conversations rather than throw “objects” at each other and put up walls. From my vantage point I know that some of my family have chosen to not be vaccinated; some of my dearest friends have not operated under the regulations put in place by our governments and many associates have chosen to not practise social distancing! I see a certain acquiescence to the racism that exists in the province. Has this changed my respect for them as people? – No! I may disagree with people’s decisions and their viewpoints, but I choose to respect them as individuals.

But all of this isn’t as concerning to me as the disrespect and violence towards leaders that I see happening. As an academy, our mandate is to entice and encourage young leaders to believe that they have a contribution to make. As I have watched how our differences have forced some people to take sides that have resulted in angry, hurtful actions it has created anger in me. It has taken a little time for me to form a response to what I have seen (Tyler Shandro’s family attacked at an event on the weekend; Muslim family run down by pick up truck; the burning of churches over the July long weekend), I want to make it clear that the academy believes this is the wrong way to deal with our anger.

If we want to maintain order at a time when stability is critical, then it is absolutely necessary for us to have wise leaders. It will be an inevitable consequence that good leaders will choose to remain outside of senior and political leader roles if all they see are the slings and arrows that people in these roles are exposed to with their families. It seems imperative to me that we maintain respect for those around us, even our enemies. We don’t have to like/ love people; but we do need to find ways where respect for each other is the hallmark of our society. Such respect should result in an openness to discuss matters, without resorting to violence and disrespect.

Integrity is what you do when no one is looking. If we hate/ dislike each other so much that it churns away at our innards, then its likely we will do things that are against the values we say we hold. That is what I see happening around me within the small radical fringe at the moment. Its not right that we abuse our leaders, even when we vehemently disagree with their policies. Its not right that we burn Christian churches simply because it is likely that mass graves recently found happened in Catholic run schools. Its not right that we let the pandemic restrictions and regulations split us so that we cannot talk to each other.

So, by way of this letter may I ask us all to take deep breaths when we feel disrespected or hurt. May I ask you to find a way of talking to your friends and family in such a way that you can agree to disagree. On some occasions you may find that such conversations change your thinking and modulates your anger. If we are to survive all the hurts that are happening to us and our loved ones, it will be because we choose to maintain respect for each other, to confront our leaders in a respectful way, and to be gentle in our wrath. May I choose to do the things to others that I would want them to do to me. May I choose to confront where appropriate, and to soothe where necessary. Have a great summer!                                                                                                          

Peter Craighead

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