Thread by thread, the idea of a beautiful Canada is being undone.
Some, if not many, Canadians will likely view my indictment as hyperbole or hyperbole driven by clickbait. I think there is more than a measure of truth in that merciless opening sentence.
This nation, widely known and admired for its tolerance and kindness, has changed and is changing in ways that challenge Canadians’ understanding and appreciation of what supposedly makes Canada different from other, much more turbulent and much less generous places in the world. .
The discovery over the past two years of mass, unmarked graves of Indigenous children—victims of cruel, forced assimilation by white, evangelical settlers—proved, of course, to be an antidote to the myth of a “caring, considerate” Canada.
The country is just beginning to face and tangibly, not rhetorically, correct this historical injustice and inhumanity.
The idea of an enlightened Canada was damaged – perhaps irreparably – after the usually peaceful capital, Ottawa, was occupied in early 2022 by an army of vile extortionists who wrapped their ignorance and selfishness in a maple leaf and claimed the flag as their own, building arrogance and security.
Like petulant children, they were loud and impatient, consumed by an incoherent rage that blinded them to the necessity of sacrifice in pursuit of the greater and common good that the pandemic and extraordinary circumstances required of each of us.
The rest of their irritating pettiness and fabricated grievances not only remain as a persistent rash, but are exploited by rank-and-file, short-sighted politicians who confuse tantrums with “liberties” to sow division and mistrust.
It was a sad, depressing spectacle that confirmed that a familiar, sinister strain of extremism – born of illiteracy and belief in lunatic conspiracy theories – had metastasized in and across Canada with all the sad, corrosive consequences.
The image of a quiet, peaceful Canada was tarnished by wannabe rebels who, despite the constant honking, bouncy castles and makeshift hot tubs, had real plans to overthrow the existing government to satisfy their rage-fueled political goals.
These days, their sick view of “public discourse” is to threaten and intimidate government officials – online and live – with barrages of rudeness and profanity because they are allergic to what could even be described as new thought. They are incorrigible thugs, not so-called “patriots”.
The disturbing scene of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystie Freeland being called a “traitor” and a “b***h” by a chubby jerk in a T-shirt in an Alberta hotel lobby just months after a “convoy of ‘disinformation'” was kicked out of Ottawa is shameful evidence of how obscenity, it seems, overcame Canada’s celebrated civility.
Canadian character and conscience were shocked again when, on New Year’s Eve, a 37-year-old mother, wife and firefighter died in excruciating pain after waiting hours for emergency care in an overcrowded emergency room in Nova Scotia.
The horror experienced by Allison Holthoff and her loving family should not have happened in a country where universal access to hospitals and the doctors and nurses who staff them is not determined by money or stature, but by need.
The details of what Allison went through not only defy belief, but pierce the heart and soul. Her long, agonizing death also revealed that something deep and essential to what once defined Canada had gone wrong.
At the press conference, Allison’s husband, Gunter, recounted their terrible ordeal in a calm, dispassionate voice.
Gunter carried Allison to the emergency room on his back. He found a wheelchair and transferred his wife to the triage portal to register. The security guard offered the couple some water and a blanket.
Allison, Gunter said, was in “obvious” pain. Nurses arrived and took Allison’s vital signs and took blood samples. It was difficult to get Allison to provide a urine sample. She collapsed on the bathroom floor, her pants falling below her waist. Security guards helped Gunter lift Allison into a wheelchair.
They returned to the main waiting room. Gunter told the nurses that Allison was “getting worse.” Then Allison lay down on the floor, in the fetal position, to try to ease the pain. The nurses told Gunter to put Allison back in the wheelchair.
“[I] can’t really blame them,” Gunter said. “There was a lot of it. It was quite busy.”
Gunter was promised that “the next bed will be ours.” The “next bed” will be hours away.
Meanwhile, Allison’s condition worsened. Still, they waited.
Finally, Allison was wheeled into the “exam” room. Apart from the bed, chair and table, the room was empty. Gunter went back to the infirmary several times to say that Allison was in trouble. The nurses gave her a night pot.
The nurse asked Gunter if Allison had “always been like this” or if she was “on drugs.” “No,” Gunter replied, for both reasons.
Allison told Gunter she was convinced she was dying. “I feel like I’m dying,” Allison said. “They’ll let me die here.”
Gunter reassured his wife. “We’ll sort you out.”
As Allison’s pain worsened, she screamed. “Help. Help,” Allison cried.
A new nurse showed up to take Allison’s vital signs again. Her blood pressure was alarmingly low, her pulse quickened. Allison was moved to another room and given an IV.
The doctor suggested that Allison’s pain could be a reaction to the use of marijuana. Gunter and Allison agreed: the theory is nonsense.
More searches have been ordered. Allison was given medication to relieve the pain. They put her on oxygen and prepared her for X-rays and a CT scan to determine the source of her pain. She seemed to have regained her composure.
That didn’t last. The pain returned with a vengeance. All of a sudden, Allison was having trouble breathing. Gunter held Allison’s hand as her eyes rolled back.
The nurse declared “code blue”. Now the doctors and nurses rushed over. They tried to resuscitate Allison, but the damage was done and beyond repair.
Later, after talking with friends, family and doctors, Gunter decided to stop treatment. “She didn’t look good,” Gunter said. “There wasn’t much chance of her ever having a normal or dignified life.”
This was no “tragedy”. It was, instead, the product of the angst of politicians who prefer to call doctors and nurses “heroes” rather than pay them what they deserve to be paid and deny hospitals the resources and people to care for all the other Allison Holthoffs who dare EMS every a day for attention.
“The system is clearly broken,” Gunter said.
It is indeed. Allison Holthoff was another victim of the unraveling – thread by thread – of good, thoughtful, compassionate Canada. Unfortunately, she will not be the last.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera