Rules around COVID-19 ring hollow without enforcement

As news and social media stories cross my screen on people not following COVID-19 protocols in our community, I can’t help but think that we need a lesson in parenting, and … well … “humaning.”

Two incidents in particular have reminded me that rules with no enforcement are useless.

Firstly, there are multiple establishments in Sault Ste. Marie that have decided to not check vaccine passports, including The Canuck. Secondly, there are accounts of groups of teens walking into corner stores without masks.

Whether you look to the broken window theory from 1982, or the unofficial parenting handbook, it is clear to me that things won’t get better until we all start following the rules. This means that someone has to enforce the rules for those at the back of the room who didn’t hear about them or who choose to ignore them.

The broken windows theory, proposed by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, basically states that if a broken window isn’t fixed right away, soon there will be more crime in the area. Why? If no one deems it important enough to fix, it must be OK to break more and commit other crimes. That’s why cities clean up graffiti as quickly as possible, otherwise it appears that lawlessness is OK within a community.

Parenting 101 similarly tells us that if you say to children they can’t go to a birthday party unless they clean up their room first, and then you let them go to the party even though they didn’t clean up their room, you have taught them that your rules don’t matter.

I feel like we are giving free licence to businesses to choose if they are going to follow COVID-19 protocols if we don’t enforce the rules for those breaking them. The number of restaurants currently being outed on social media for not following COVID-19 protocols is quite sickening, and it is turning into my list of establishments that I will no longer frequent. Why, you ask? Simply put, if they are willing to ignore health related rules for COVID-19, what health-related rules are they also not following when they prepare my food or drinks?

I used the expression “free licence” above on purpose, because several establishments in southern Ontario have lost their liquor licences for not following these rules. I was happy to read in Elaine Della-Mattia’s Oct. 7 article in the Sault Star that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has been alerted to The Canuck not following COVID protocols and that they, Algoma Public Health, and the police are investigating.

I have heard businesses say that they don’t want to enforce the rules because they will lose business. The same argument was made when the no-smoking rules were introduced in the province, but those fears never materialized.

I am quite sure that losing a liquor licence would be a lot more damaging to a business than complying with the vaccine passports and wearing masks. In this case, at a very minimum, the Canuck has lost The Sault Blues Society’s business for the foreseeable future, as the society stated: “The health and safety of the musicians and our blues music lovers is always most important to us.”

Della-Mattia’s article also points to some confusion in our city about who is in charge of enforcement in these cases. This makes me think of the naughty child who plays parents off each other to get the most favourable treatment. Good parents know that a unified front is required.

Speaking of parenting, time to check in with your teens about their wearing of masks. My friend recently posted about four teens who were not wearing masks in a local convenience store. They got belligerent and all said they had asthma when asked kindly why they weren’t wearing masks. I can believe one teen might have had asthma, but four?

To the parents and businesses, APH, AGCO, and Sault police, let’s fix the broken windows now, before things get worse. Rules mean nothing without enforcement.

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