When we entered this pandemic in the beginning of 2020, we were afraid, uncertain, and very concerned. As we saw the numbers of deaths begin to climb, we were alarmed. As the ground began to shift beneath our feet, we faced our own vulnerabilities. We were reminded of our own mortality and the fragility of human life. It sparked something in us, and the phrase, “stay safe, or ‘stay well” became a common mantra for many. It was an acknowledgment of how the small things didn’t matter so much, when we were faced with the possibility of dying.
We went into isolation and began to miss everything, and everyone, including even the annoying habits of other people who shared parts of our lives. The loneliness gave people time to realize how important it is to be part of community, and to have others share the human experience with us. We were locked in our homes alone, feeling the isolation and the quiet that gives us time to think. We were thinking about how to be better people, how to build a better society, how to be kinder to others. When we thought, “maybe this is the last time I will see this person,” we acted a in a kinder gentler way to others.
As we emerged from this most recent lockdown, there seemed to be no evidence of our internal stock-taking, and our own promises to not return to the old normal of taking people for granted. All that kindness, humility and gratitude seemed to fly out the window.
In our community, police issued charges against a woman, saying she had defaced a Pride symbol. The police issued a press release and named her. Within this community, members felt it was a license to publicly attack and shame this woman. A few days later, the police issued another press release, saying the charges against her were dropped. But by then, the damage was done, mostly by community members who forgot the foundations of a free and democratic society, namely the right to be presumed innocent until one receives a fair trial, and is actually found guilty in a court of law.
All the promises of a better society, and a kinder world, with more care and appreciation for others didn’t manifest the way most of us were hoping. Instead, we saw people raging against an individual. It is an ugly remnant of our pre-pandemic days and it should be left in the past.
The irony here is that while some members in local communities were rallying an attack against one of their own neighbours, the House of Commons was busy passing legislation to recognize Kindness Week, beginning the third week in February 2022.
Senator Jim Munson introduced the Kindness Week Act, as a private member’s bill in the Senate and it was sponsored by MP Michael Barrett and Emmanuella Lambropoulos. It received Royal Assent.
MP Barrett said the bill was inspired by Rabbi Reuven Bulka, the founder of Kind Canada. MP Barrett said, “designating Kindness Week throughout Canada to encourage acts of kindness, voluntarism and charitable giving will benefit all Canadians, and I want to congratulate Senator Munson and Rabbi Bulka for their dedicated efforts on Kindness Week.”
The text in the Bill includes a preamble with statements such as, “Whereas kindness encourages values such as empathy, respect, gratitude and compassion; and Whereas kind acts lead to the improved health and well-being of Canadians.”
We may be rolling our eyes thinking this is a silly and unnecessary Act. Pretty soon we will have legislation for everything. Often, we rail against being over-governed with so much legislation encroaching on our daily lives, including legislation such as Quebec’s Bill 21, that dictates what we are allowed or not allowed to wear, such as religious symbols, religious veils, or crosses. This law is being challenged as unconstitutional because it infringes on Charter protected rights to freedom of religion.
Under the Charter, everyone is free to practice any religion and is free to express religious beliefs through prayer or the wearing of religious symbols. The Charter also deals with how people are to be treated by the justice system, and provides assurances that everyone is treated fairly at every stage of the justice process. We are all innocent until there is proof of guilt that is found following due process. The Charter covers many things that are intended to protect our quality of life, and how we interact with each other despite our differences. Canadians were so very proud when it was introduced in 1982. The intent of the Charter was to set out our rights and freedoms, that we believed would let us all live in a free and democratic society. It set out the rules for how we would live together in peace, enjoying personal security. Apparently, the Charter does not go far enough because here we are nearly 40 years later, passing legislation to remind us to be kind to each other. Apparently, we are a country that needs this legislation. Be kind to each other out there.