Columnists Katherine Wagner

CITIZEN’S INK: Striving to be a hero during COVID-19 pandemic

Easier to be a hero in short spirts, but we might have to prep for more of a long-term gig

By Katherine Wagner/Special to The News

As someone at high risk from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, I’m currently thinking of myself as a writer-in-residence – while I work on my novel.

There is an adage among fiction writers attempting to create realistic characters: The villain always believes they’re the hero of the story.

Of course, real life people are vastly more complicated than even the most intricately drawn character in a book, but the basic premise holds. Ask anyone who is defying social distancing and other pandemic restrictions and they will likely have a “good” (at least to them) reason (excuse) for their behaviour.

Public emergencies highlight the heroes among us.

During this pandemic, frontline health-care workers, first responders, truckers, flight crews, grocery store workers, and delivery people (not an exhaustive list) are all cape-wearing superheroes.

Few aspire to be a moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash caricature of villainy, but those deliberately attempting to profiteer by hoarding essential safety supplies, then reselling them at an obscene mark-up, come close.

Fortunately, as the seriousness of the situation sinks in, many of these would-be villains have realized it’s not too late for redemption and they’re donating their caches.

Other villains prey on shuttered businesses and vandalize ambulances. The need for security services has risen.

Human nature is predictable and so is the trajectory of this pandemic.

Somehow, we have to collectively deal with the gap and flatten the curve. To achieve this, we all need to strive to act heroically in whatever way we can, but it’s easier to be a hero for short sprints. The challenge we all face is that this may go on for months.

Short term, anyone can improve their hero status by donating to our frontline health care workers. Unneeded, unopened safety supplies such as gloves, surgical masks, and hand sanitizer top the list. Email Fraser Health at

Those of us with the financial means can find ways to support the local businesses and non-profits hard hit by this crisis.

The threat and uncertainty of the pandemic weighs heavily on all of us.

RECENT COLUMN: Personal responsibility key to mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus

Right now, leaders must be seen to be leading. Citizens need to hear directly from our elected representatives at all levels of government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is helping to amplify urgent messages from health care experts.

His live media briefings from the porch of his Ottawa residence and PSA videos from his kitchen, underscored the message that we are all in this together.

On Sunday, March 22, Trudeau sensed a need and spoke directly to Canada’s children, “…a special thanks to all you kids. Thank you for helping your parents work from home, for sacrificing your usual day, for doing math class around the kitchen table, and for trusting in science. We are going to have more to say to you soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, let’s make sure we all do our part. Let’s fight this together.”

READ MORE: Not time for state of emergency, Trudeau says, but Parliament asked to pass COVID-19 aid

Several weeks later, his message still resonates.

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix are regularly and personally relaying the efforts of the provincial government to protect citizens and the economy.

Being visible and encouraging and reassuring citizens is also an important role for mayors during this crisis.

Simply providing links to resources does not carry the reassurance that direct messaging does.

For example, Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall has been issuing regular messages and videos reinforcing the directives of other government levels and informing citizens about the city’s COVID-19 response.

Neighbours are helping neighbours and reaching out to strangers.

These heroes are using social media groups to connect with those in need.

Stores, restaurants and pharmacies have stepped up with delivery and pick-up services, and special hours for those at risk.

For political and financial profit, villains are attempting to capitalize on our distraction, anxiety and fear in an effort to exploit, scam and sow disinformation.

We all need to be careful to not aid the spread of misinformation.

Please, fact check before sharing social media content. Click through and read what is at the link, rather than sharing based on a headline or a recommendation by a connection. Does the infograph or article reference sources? Is the article posted on a reliable news source? Think about whether the information makes sense. Do a quick google search of the headline or a paragraph or two. Heroes help protect their fellow citizens.

Do what you can to tap into your inner hero.

Connect, support each other, listen to Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Theresa Tam, and follow directives from our governments.

We will get through this.

STAY TUNED: Sign up today for updates on everything you need to know about the coronavirus


– Katherine Wagner is a member of the Citizens’ Task Force on Transparency, a former school trustee and member of Golden Ears Writers


• If there is more to this story, please let us know about it. Email us at We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.


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