Steinbach does not often hit the national or international news, and when it does it usually is at least partly about religion. We on occasion have been made to look ridiculous, not entirely without justification, for actions taken based on the religious views of a majority of the community. The news has not always been negative. I remember when Steinbach hit the national news for having the most generous charitable donors in the country. That is pretty favourable news.
I have been a subscriber to the Guardian Weekly since 1982. It is a newspaper that is read around the world and widely admired for the quality of its journalism. Then it was called the Manchester Guardian. I assure you that since that time Steinbach has never been on the Guardian’s radar. They might have mentioned the name Steinbach (I can’t remember) when Steinbach’s most famous son was interviewed by the press around the world as a result of a journalist, Murray Hiebert, who I knew in passing, and who was the Malaysian bureau chief for Far Eastern Economic Review, and was jailed after serving one month for contempt of court. Basically, he was jailed for writing a book critical of the Malaysian legal system. I believe he was the first reporter in the Commonwealth that was jailed for his writing since the Second World War. I don’t know if the Guardian covered the story but they likely did because he was interviewed by media around the world. Briefly he was probably the most famous person ever to have come out of Steinbach. The Guardian might have mentioned Steinbach when it wrote about our most famous daughter—Miriam Toews. They have written about her on more than one occasion, and she is certainly worthy of international attention and has justifiably received much of it.
And now Steinbach hit international news again and this time for something that happened in our little city. Imagine my surprise when I read about this in the Guardian. The Guardian reported on the dissenting efforts of the Church of God Restoration. The Guardian juxtaposed their rebellion with the seriousness of the pandemic, particularly in Steinbach. Here is what Leyland Cecco reported in the Guardian Weekly:
“We’ve certainly been more aggressive with masks than the United States,” said Dr. Anand Kumar an infectious disease and intensive care physician. His province of Manitoba has the highest active case rate in the country. 634 infections per 100,000 residents—seven times the higher than neighbouring Ontario. In Steinbach, the site of a recent anti-mask protest, officials have logged 10-day positivity rates of 40%.”
I was told that was the highest rate in North America at the time, yet our city was the site of an anti-mask rally. It was incongruous. Actually, it was worse than that. Dr. Kumar, an expert on the subject, was advocating, Manitoba’s restrictions be tightened, not loosened as the church wanted. He was worried about a health care overload that was already stressing our health care system. The dissidents included many members of the church, but many others as well. They were primarily worried about their rights to congregate. The Guardian suggested that Manitoba would have done much worse had they followed American practices and ignorance about the disease and had Manitoba political leaders not refused to believe in conspiracy theories. As the Guardian said, that “probably averted a far more dire outcome.”
I wonder what will be the next reason that Steinbach attracts international attention? Maybe when Miriam Toews wins the Man Booker Prize.