On the first weekend of October, my wife and I drove down to the town of Black Diamond for a change of scenery. While there, we stopped at a restaurant called The Westwood. As we walked in the door, we saw that the restaurant was following AHS protocols. Masking was required, there were Plexiglas dividers set up to help separate the customers and staff, and hand sanitizer was set out to use. Once inside, we ordered fries to share and coffee and talked to the woman behind the till. As soon as we ordered, she got quiet and averted her eyes. At barely above a whisper, she asked, “Can I see your proof of vaccination, please?”

This was the first time I had been in a business requiring proof of vaccination since the Alberta government implemented the restrictions exemption program on Sept. 20, and I had completely forgotten about it. Luckily, both my wife and I had our proof of vaccinations on us because our worksites had required them before the government implemented the program. But, for a second, I hesitated. Because she spoke so softly, it took me a moment to understand what she was asking us and I got confused. And in that second of my confusion, I could see by the look on her face that she was expecting me to yell at her. 

Once I realized what she said, I nodded and said, “Oh, right!” and pulled out my phone to show her the proof. Her whole demeanor relaxed. 

It made me wonder how often she had been mistreated in the short time the exemption program had been in effect. Even if my confusion was mistaken as anger, I suspect her reaction was born out of experience. It’s not her fault that the exemption program was implemented and it’s definitely not fair that she (or anyone in a similar position) is put in the situation of enforcing the rules. 

The current state of public health emergency may have been avoided if people had listened to the recommendations of healthcare professionals, immunologists, and the World Health Organization. Because our government was lax with health protocols and declared that Alberta was “Open for Summer”, the province had nearly half of the COVID-19 cases in Canada by September. The spike in cases strained ICUs, required the need for military assistance, renewed restrictions, and made international headlines when The New York Times wrote an article about the terrible state of COVID-19 in Alberta.

The exemption program, along with vaccine passports, have become a polarizing topic. It’s to the point where people on opposite sides are rarely able to have a functional conversation without it becoming a heated debate. It appears empathy has ceased to exist and an attitude of us versus them has washed over the province. People have become so entrenched in their side that they are unable to look at any opinion objectively. And, people seem to forget that mistreating restaurant or bar staff, healthcare workers, or anyone else who has to enforce the restrictions over the government’s decisions will not change the government’s mind. 

We all want the pandemic and the accompanying restrictions to end. People who understand the necessity of the restrictions do not enjoy them anymore than you do. We are all stressed. We are all experiencing difficult times. We are all human. We all deserve kindness. Even if we can’t see eye to eye, let us still be kind. As a friend of mine often says, “You will never regret being kind.”