….a friend of mine lives in Montreal. He called the other night. Amongst other things, we talked about how hard Quebec has been hit by Covid-19. “Geez, man, what is it about Quebec that attracts viruses?”
My friend is Jewish. He said, “Well, the Quebec situation is very much a ‘perfect storm’ kinda thing for a pandemic. In Montreal and other areas, there are lot of Hasidic Jews. Hasidic Jews are usually closely interconnected with other Hasidic Jews. The Montreal group and the closer villages are very connected to the Hasidim in New York. There is a regular co-mingling back and forth all through the year. New York got hit bad. The Hasidim got hit really badly and the timing was such that a lot of inter-travel also happened. Boom! The outbreak in New York became the outbreak in Montreal.
“But it gets worse. There were a lot of Haitians that took refuge after the earthquake in 2010 and fled like refugees to the US. But when Trump started his anti-immigration position, they became afraid that they would be deported back to Haiti so many of them fled to Canada and especially to Quebec because most Haitians speak French. Northern Montreal is an old, crowded neighbourhood and has many, many Haitians. That community is poor and ill-educated and so they took low paying jobs in the service sector. Many of those jobs are in senior’s care homes. There are a lot of Jewish senior’s care homes. The Haitians and the Jews were in close contact. A lot. Added into that mix was the calendar. Quebec took an earlier Spring Break. The timing, the virus, the co-mingling of American and Canadian Hasidim, the poverty of the Haitians and then the intense closeness of the two groups and you get the Mother of all Virus outbreaks. It’s terrible.”
Of course there are all sorts of tragic stories of desperate migrants coming to the poor sections of wealthier cities and the disruptions that occur from that including, no doubt, major health problems. But this one is different. This one is a concentration of disease amongst the vulnerable, the poor, the old, the politically reviled and it broke the system that barely works for the well-off (of which there are fewer and fewer).
In a sense, their situation could be the dystopian nightmare of tomorrow.
Bear with me…..
Since 2000 we have experienced the hottest temperatures on record. Climate change is real and part of that is heat, droughts, stronger hurricanes, flooding, rising sea levels and the like. That all points to more and more people from hot, poor countries trying to go to places more liveable. Migration is a growing phenomena. With that kind of desperate migration comes weak populations putting themselves in even more stressful situations. Disease is common.
Trump won’t help fund the World Health Organization anymore, ignores America’s CDC and wants to get rid of even Tony Fauci, his lead medical advisor. Harper took a similar approach to science when he was the Prime Minister of Canada. So have other ‘leaders’ like Brazil’s Bolsonoro. “We don’ need no stinkin’ science!”
And….they may be right. It may be too late for the Tony Faucis to make a difference after all. Maybe a wall, a big wall, a really beautiful wall, the most beautiful wall ever built is what is needed – because, you see, everything is related. Climate change, migration, politics, poverty, contagions…it all came together in Montreal and it is not a rosy gathering.