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LETTER: Lingering xenophobia

Letters to the Editor
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As a sociologist and structural social work student, I am seeing more than ever a general consensus of distress within Prince Edward Island.

Not having seen a case of COVID-19 in months, many were devastated to hear of the five new cases that have emerged this past weekend. Although they have been identified as unrelated to the bubble, there seems to be more anxiety curated around the opening of the Atlantic borders.

The fear of a virus is justified, yet when is the line drawn between fearing a virus and a fear of outsiders altogether?

As Islanders, we are passionate about keeping our communities safe and welcoming. Yet, I have heard many stories of locals seeing licence plates from Ontario or the United States and calling officials to report a potential illegal entry into the province.

While these acts may be perpetrated by well-intentioned citizens, it eerily resembles the prejudiced behaviour of another pandemic we are seeing in the media recently: racism towards BIPOC peoples and the disgusting “go back to your country” attitude. This was exemplified in attitudes after the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Campbellton, N.B.

I question when reporting a foreign licence plate becomes calling authorities on someone who just doesn’t “look like they are from here”. I am contemplating even more deeply about whether after this COVID-19 health crisis passes (though I doubt we’ll ever return to any semblance of normalcy) if this fear of the other will still linger within our “gentle” province.

We are aware that COVID-19 spreads quickly, but so do racism and prejudice. I warn Islanders to be cognizant of their subconscious xenophobic attitudes as travellers begin to enter our province.

Jessica Arbing,
North Milton

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