Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan addressed the Rotary Club Red Deer East at Pidherney Curling Centre on Tuesday.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff

MLA Jason Stephan: Lockdowns will be devastating for mental health, economy

While COVID-19 should be respected, I am concerned there is too much fear, contention and polarization.

Hope would be so much better instead.

Relying on true principles results in happiness and better choices, carrying us through challenging times to better days. I know this is true.

One foundational principle of the United Conservative Party is to “[a]ffirm the family as the building block of society and the means by which citizens pass on their values and beliefs and ensure that families are protected from intrusion by government.” I love that.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is intended to protect families from intrusions by government.

When I was studying the charter in law school, I learned that Section 2 of the charter recognizes “fundamental freedoms” including freedoms of “association” and “peaceful assembly.”

The freedom of association allows for the “achievement of individual potential through interpersonal relationships.”

What interpersonal relationships allow for more opportunities for “achievement of our potential,” individually or collectively, than in our families?

The freedom of assembly protects the “physical gathering of people.” What physical gatherings are more important than with our own families?

Belonging to, and gathering in, our families are not mere fundamental freedoms, they are also among the highest, most important, expressions of these freedoms.

Families are the fundamental unit of society. More than ever, families need each other and need to be supported.

Section 1 of the charter requires “minimal impairment,” “rational connection” and “proportionality” between the objective of reducing harms from COVID through public health orders and the harms of imposing limits on the freedoms of families to gather and act in ways to support each other in these challenging times.

I am blessed to be the father of two adult sons and a teenage daughter.

Like many parents, I am concerned about the impact health orders are having on the mental and emotional health of our children.

I feel joy watching my sons become independent of their parents, to seek happiness as they individually see fit.

Yet, like many parents, I see the work and effort of young adults threatened by lockdowns with devastating social and economic consequences.

This ought not to be. Some of the loudest voices calling for more lockdowns or shutdowns, will not lose a penny of pay, while those impacted may lose it all.

No child under 20 has died from COVID-19 in Alberta.

A single positive COVID case in a high school should not automatically result in 118 other students sent home to isolate, just because they were in the same classrooms, notwithstanding physical distancing may have been maintained throughout, and notwithstanding a student is in good health and exhibiting no symptoms.

Public health measures require these school children to go home and isolate for up to 14 days, avoiding close contact with household members, including parents, not leave their properties, even for walks, and even if they have no symptoms. For some children, all of this can be very unhealthy. Parents seeking the well-being of their children may be compelled to respond differently.

Orders, lockdowns and shutdowns impose long term physical, mental and emotional health costs, especially on our children.

Children should never be made to fear. Truth is an antidote to fear.

Perspective is integral to understanding truth.

Interpreting facts in isolation, or with selective fact emphasis, distorts perspective, allowing fears to take root.

Providing facts in context, with a balanced emphasis, supports healthier perspectives.

Vaccinations are increasing and the observed cyclical incidence of COVID-19 lessens as summer approaches.

While we should be vigilant, fear should not be used as a tool to coerce compliance to restrictions. Great leaders lead in love and inspire hope and the best in those they serve.

Prescriptive approaches used for unhealthy individuals, should not be used for healthy populations. Prescriptive approaches can deny responsible adults the opportunity to make personal judgments appropriate for their own circumstances, their families, and their children.

A principled vision of hope trusts Albertans to govern themselves and their families in respectful ways. We will have more hope, and we will be healthier and happier.

Jason Stephan is the Red Deer South MLA.

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