Talk:Toronto SARS crisis

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This is outrageous. Canadian politicians should immediatelly take some serious action, or if they don't have a clue of what they should do, then at least look more worried on tv for the sake of appearance.

They are experts at apologizing and bluffing, and nothing else. If they spun and spun and spun webs of lies for years and it always worked before, how can they suddenly become honest now? See Toronto respiratory health crisis for the long history of these lies.

But hey, don't trust me, I'm basing this on what I saw on televizor and we should all know that tv isn't reality,

did you see Mayor Melvin Lastman sputtering on TV railing at something (WHO) he didn't even know what/where it was? That was real - he is w:Krusty the Klown in real life. Toronto = Kamp Krusty. They voted for him 80%!!

it just presents lots of pictures really quickly. I've recently seen nice firecrackers in Baghdad (everytime they looped the clip, the newsreader said something about heavy bombings), Americans "precision attacing" an commercial airliner sitting on a airfield with some stunningly big bomb (ca. 200 meters high explosion, could have been an computer animation, black and white, low quality, easy to fake with the right resources), not to mention President of Absurdistan saying that "The Religious Militants in Absurdistan are NOT Under Control", which was a bit surprising, or not. Go figure.

Relocated from Gen SARS page

I have relocated the following and almost entirely unreferenceds material from the general SARS article page. Some of it may be appropriate to merge into the Toronto SARS article page later. --Bob Burton 23:45, 31 July 2007 (EDT)


Some panic, terror and disinformation commonly accompanies such a public health crisis, and blame for this should normally not be assigned too close to the events. However, the virulence of, and 'spin' applied to the SARS crisis in both China and Canada, notes some mention if only to demonstrate differences:

  • Both the mayor of Beijing and Minister of Health of China were fired for lying about the number of cases, extent of spread, and not taking other precautions.
  • The Premier of Ontario, Ernest Eves, and Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, ate out at deserted Chinatown restaurants to encourage tourism and debunk the scare.
  • The mayor of Toronto, Melvin Lastman, said virtually nothing about the crisis until the WHO warning was issued at which point he vowed to fight it, and encouraged Torontonians to eat out in restaurants and attend public events.
  • The Minister of Health of Canada, Anne McLellan, vowed to fight the WHO warning and have it reversed - a bizarre and apparently unprecedented move. Ontario Minister of Health Anthony Clement also vowed to participate in this effort, saying on April 23, 2003, that "there are things we can do to make an impression on the WHO" as if this was in fact a public relations crisis. He later claimed that the 'things' were actual public health measures and gaining actual control over the disease's spread (which 'under his watch' has spread to the Phillipines, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as of April 23, 2003).
  • The Government of Ontario chose the same day to charge two former municipal employees for the Walkerton water crisis in which seven people died, and thousands fell ill, in 2000, a crisis of similar magnitude to the current extent of the SARS scare. It was felt by some that this was a distraction and a scapegoating of these lower level officials. Others believed that although the employees charged should have had far more serious charges filed against them, both public servants and members of the government also bore responsibility for the contamination of Walkerton's water supply ? although the Walkerton inquiry had established that higher levels in the Government (of prior Premier Michael Harris, also of Eves' Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario), had also to bear the responsibility, no government members were charged.
  • Language used by Ontario officials in both cases was remarkably similar, with Harris in the Walkerton inquiry, and lower level officials in the SARS crisis, both using the phrase "we have learned a valuable lesson" when describing clear cases of negligence killing a dozen or more people. This is apparently code language for incompetence, designed to evoke some public sympathy for the incompetent public official. Similar language had been used in China, and resulted in the immediate firings of both the Mayor and the Minister of Health.
  • Jean Chretien remained on a golf holiday in the Dominican Republic as the crisis spread, and offered C$10M in aid to the travel industry upon his return.
  • Ernest Eves claimed on April 25, 2003, that the WHO would review their travel advisory "on Tuesday", a claim that the WHO flatly denied.
  • Dick Thompson of the WHO declared that expecting an advisory to be lifted was "naive", "not to be expected"
  • Paul Martin, Jr., widely anticipated to succeed Jean Chretien, stated in a Canada-wide radio interview on April 28 that the advisory "would" be lifted.
  • Anne McLellan, a Martin supporter for the leadership and the Minister of Health, was attacked for negligence by Sheila Copps, another leadership contender, and Stephen Harper, the leader of the opposition. Both had warned a month earlier that far more strong airport departure screening measures were required.
  • various press sources began to decry a general lack of leadership and the appearance of public officials only to support business and not victims.

On "Tuesday" April 29, the WHO lifted its travel advisory against Toronto as reported here. The rapid reversal by the WHO, and the certainty of Mr. Martin that his supporter Ms. McLellan would achieve this reversal, suggested strongly to many observers that Canada and Ontario officials had more or less blackmailed the WHO, refusing to put the stronger exit measures in place unless the advisory was lifted.

On Wednesday April 30, McLellan promised on Canadian national TV to deal with a CDC-like coordination centre for Canada, and to appoint an independent inquiry. Coordination between municipal, provincial, federal and international officials had been so poor that lives had been lost, in Toronto and in the countries where SARS was exported. The stronger screen measures went into place just as the crisis was being announced as over! As doctors announced that they would quite possibly never make up the hospital backlog due to lack of surge capacity that had reduced Toronto to one functional downtown emergency ward, hundreds of millions began to flow into a program to advertise Toronto as a tourist destination.

These incidents suggest that a developed nation or democracy may not actually be as capable as a developing nation or dictatorship at the correct assignment of responsibility or choice of reponse in a public health crisis. Or, simply, that 'spin' works better in Ontario than in China in 2003. For more details see Toronto SARS crisis and Toronto respiratory health crisis of which it is a part. This article focuses on SARS as it reflects the prevailing attitudes to biosecurity in North America.

It is particularly disturbing that the response of higher level officials in China was to immediately remove 'spin doctors' from positions where they might damage public health, whereas the higher level officials in Canada, as G. W. Bush did after September 11, 2001, have chosen to encourage consumerism itself, as if consumption led to healthy economic growth, and engage in the 'spin' themselves as 'boosters' for their jurisdiction. More subtly, productivism plays a role in spreading such plagues in urban areas, as people feel compelled to go to work even if sick.

Perhaps this "work ethic", loyalty to one's professional and bureaucratic establishment, "economic sense" and "competitiveness" trump all public health concerns to North American leaders. Many see the role of democratically elected leaders as increasingly to convince the public that they are not in danger, even if and when they are. However, it seems that the campaign finance and candidate selection process and campaign media access in North American democracy has deeper flaws than this, and that leaders capable of dealing with such crises as SARS will not in general emerge from these processes without more substantial reforms. One major issue is that the public is trained to express 'preferences' as in a market, not 'tolerances' in choosing a leader, viewing the leader as a defender against competition by outsiders, and not as a reflection of their common values and reinforcer against inside threat.

These characteristics may be diametrically opposite of what is required to deal with a public health crisis, in particular an infectious disease spread by almost-casual contact, where political leadership plays the key role in shaping behavior. Leaders incapable of asking the public to make sacrifices are likely also incapable of asking the public even to respect a quarantine or health order.


Relocating from article page

Relocating this rather rambling and unreferenced material from the article page. --Bob Burton 23:48, 31 July 2007 (EDT)

is unlike most public health crisis and public relations crisis situations in that it illustrates a much wider variety of propaganda techniques including:

These are the culmination of a much longer public health crisis, including the Toronto smog crisis, that is covered as the Toronto respiratory health crisis. It demonstrates the sometimes remarkable power of spin doctors to hide or deny the medical and bodily truth. On April 25, 2003, for instance, the same day that two SARS patients died including an otherwise healthy 44-year-old man, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien claimed that the World Health Organization's travel advisory had been "wrong". The Ontario Premier Ernest Eves claimed also on that day that "on Tuesday there will be a review of that decision". This too was denied by the WHO in Geneva.

As of the date of the travel advisory these conditions prevailed in Toronto:

  • Patients reporting ordinary cough and cold-like symptoms (SARS is a variant of the common cold caused by the corona virus) could not go to family doctors or any downtown facility, but had to travel outside of the city itself to the Scarborough Rouge River facility - which can only be reached by a C$45 cab ride from downtown, or on a subway, elevated train, and bus combination. Many Toronto residents have no car. Many live near the poverty line. Thousands are homeless. At this remote facility, they are forced to wait outside, sometimes in weather that would count as winter conditions in most places in the world.
  • Normal city traffic and coal-burning plants next door in Mississauga continue to depress respiratory health, causing 1000-1500 premature deaths per year due directly to respiratory and immune depression, according to the Toronto Medical Board of Health
  • This board was not permitted to directly communicate with the WHO itself, instead being forced to communicate via Ontario and Health Canada officials
  • Health Canada had no personnel, simply a bulletin board with pamphlets, at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, from which departing passengers had spread the virus to the Phillipines, and several of the United States.

Dr. David Hayman, Director of Communicable Diseases at WHO, said "what we are trying to do is stop the spread of the disease internationally," a goal which Canadian officials have apparently given up on, in favour of spin goals:

Rather than accepting the WHO ban, Chretien moved a cabinet meeting from Ottawa to Toronto, in an apparent act of defiance of this ruling of a UN agency. He also guaranteed a C$10M advertising campaign to promote travel to Toronto. When asked why he did not return from his golf vacation in the Dominican Republic earlier, he used the same phrases as Ernest Eves, claiming he had been told that the city had "turned the corner" and that there were "no new cases". Earlier use of phrases "valuable lesson" and "wake-up call" had done nothing to bolster public confidence in these politicians. Nor was this confined to the senior level of government:

"What I'm doing right now is sending out a message to the CDC or whoever the hell they are..." upon which he was quickly corrected "the WHO", said Toronto Mayor Melvin Lastman, who was apparently quite unclear as to who he was sending his message to, or why he felt qualified to "correct" anyone.

A campaign of concerned Toronto, Ontario, and Canadian citizens has begun to support the WHO decision and beg them to keep the travel advisory in place until Toronto's entire respiratory health crisis is resolved. The Beijing SARS crisis has been characterized by far more drastic measures to deal with the virus, none of which have so far been contemplated in Toronto.