Just as Canada’s truck drivers were adjusting to the unfamiliar warmth of widespread public adoration, there are concerning reports that adulation is turning to stigmatization.
In Ontario, a longhaul truck driver’s wife, Bianka Muir, told us her husband was denied entry to his daughter’s elementary school when they arrived to pick up her belongings. A sign stated no one who’d traveled outside Canada in the past 14 days count enter the premises.
Surely, she countered, truck drivers – providing an essential service – are exempt. “No exceptions,” was the response.
“When I asked whether this would be the policy in September when the children return to school, she said ‘That is just one of the guidelines we are looking at,’” recalled Muir, who has reached out with her concerns to Ontario’s Education Minister.
“I’m sure you understand the problems with this scenario. Thousands of families across Ontario will be affected in September. Families will have to choose between our trucker staying away from home until the pandemic is over, our children not being able to attend school, or our truckers having to find Ontario-only work, thereby slowing the flow of goods across North America and decreasing our income.”
It’s difficult to imagine this scenario playing out, that cooler heads won’t prevail, but there’s also reason to fear otherwise. In May, a P.E.I.-based truck driver was fined $1,000 for going to a grocery store to buy food after being in the U.S. Self-isolation requirements were later relaxed for truck drivers in that province, though officials say it had nothing to do with that particular incident.
In Manitoba, there had been only 318 cases of Covid-19 as of June 26, with eight linked to truck drivers. Yet, it was the professional drivers who earned the wrath of the public. In several instances, truck drivers were refused service at restaurants, prompting the province’s chief provincial public health officer to issue a plea for decency.
Dr. Brent Roussin took to local media to admonish those who refused service to the province’s truck drivers.
“We shouldn’t be stigmatizing truck drivers. We should be thanking them. They’ve kept our supply chains open during these difficult times. They’re taking risks to keep our supply chains moving,” Roussin said during a press conference. “No one is asking to be ill.”
He went on to say truck drivers are professionals, taking extra precautions, and do not represent a disproportionate number of cases that would necessitate any special treatment or precautionary measurements. He also called for “kindness” to be shown towards truck drivers – something you’d never expect a public health official to have to address.
The good news is, recognition and gratitude from within the industry continues unabated. Free meals are still being offered through various initiatives right across the country, drivers continue to receive personal protective equipment from their employers and other industry organizations, and fleets continue to roll out special truck and trailer graphics that recognize truckers as essential service providers.
This effort needs to continue for two reasons. One, truckers are deserving of the recognition and are selflessly putting themselves at risk for the benefit of others, who are hunkered down at home but well fed and supplied thanks to their efforts.
Secondly, as we’ve seen already, the general public has a short memory. We can’t let them forget about the vital role truckers are playing, and will continue to play, to get us through this pandemic.
Have your say
We won't publish or share your data