William Faulkner once said ‘you will never catch up with injustice.’ Truer words have never been spoken.
Kyle Hiebert had some important things to say in a recent opinion piece in the Winnipeg Free Press. Here is the opening paragraph of that piece:
“With numerous national COVID-19 vaccine programs underway, the world has potentially entered the final chapter of the pandemic. That is, however, if you are lucky enough to be living in a country that has access to a vaccine. For billions of people around the world, that is not the reality.”
In the west we worry that our political leaders have not scrambled hard enough, quickly enough, and with enough ferocity to get our “fair share” of the vaccines. Of course in each country or each jurisdiction “fair share” means gross excess. No one is satisfied with fair. This attitude is spreading around the world like a pandemic. Funny how that happens.
Africa has been warned that they may not see the vaccines until the latter part of 2021. According to Hiebert, here is the harsh reality and we should look at it, even though we may hate to do that:
“…advocacy groups warned that in more than 60 of the world’s poorest nations, nine in 10 people will be denied a vaccine before 2022. Other assessments say the wait could be as long as until 2024. Instead, wealthy nations representing a mere 14 per cent of the world’s population have snatched up billions of doses of different vaccines through pre-purchase agreements with a range of manufacturers, accumulating stockpiles grossly disproportionate to their population size.”
As has been happening over and over again during this pandemic we are seeing the existing inequities in our societies repeatedly exposed if not magnified. What shocked me though is which country is the worst offender? USA? Russia? Turkey? No. Canada!
As Hiebert said,
“The world’s worst offender: Canada, which — while failing at developing its own domestic vaccine production capacity — pre-purchased enough jabs to inoculate its population five times over. The Trudeau government has now belatedly announced that Canada would donate $485 million to COVID- 19 mitigation efforts in developing countries.”
Now in fairness to Canada, our federal government took the initiative and risk and ordered vaccines from a number of corporations on speculation hoping that some would work out well, but expecting that not all would work out at all. It spent a lot of money contractually agreeing to buy vaccines that might have turned out to be worthless. It did that to protect Canada who lacks the capacity to produce its own vaccines. We Canadians are likely happy they did that. But now—perhaps—we have too much. I hope we do the right thing now and help less advantaged countries get their fair share too.
Countries like Canada must do their part to bring about justice. Attitudes of Canada First or America First have their dark sides that ought not to be ignored and should be limited. We have to remember that we actually are in this together. Until the poorest country tackles this disease it can come back to haunt those countries that thought they survived the worst. As well, all world economies now rely on international trade and if poor countries suffer they won’t be able to buy good from rich countries and as a result all economies will suffer.
Kyle Hiebert summed the issues up well this way:
“The end of the pandemic may be within sight — for some. But even in the post-pandemic era, the myopic outlook of rich countries in terms of security and prosperity will continue to threaten the world’s ability to become a safer, more equal and more sustainable place.”
May be then we can at least see injustice and do something about it, even if we can’t run it down.