ontario schools

Health professionals are calling for this part of Ontario's lockdown to end immediately

While virtually everyone in the province of Ontario is wishing that the business closures and other health and safety restrictions put into place on Jan. 5 would be over already, there are a few groups who have organized to formally protest aspects of the latest iteration of lockdown and ask the provincial government that they end ASAP.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is among those that have implored Premier Doug Ford and his team to reverse their recent decision to forcibly shutter gyms, museums, cinemas, event venues, indoor dining at bars and restaurants and more, but some of the most adamant opposition is coming from those demanding that officials reopen our schools.

The Canadian Paediatric Society, the Pediatrics Section of the Ontario Medical Association, and the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario — the experts who one presumes would know most about children's health — recently penned an open letter to the province's leadership in which they called virtual-only learning irrecovably harmful.

"Over the course of the pandemic, we have learned that certain decisions and measures pose a far greater risk to children and youth than the virus itself," the letter, dated Jan. 7, reads.

It goes on to state the striking jump doctors have witnessed in rates of childhood depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidality and more due to lockdown measures and the closure of classrooms; issues that the doctors believe make for, like COVID, "a public health emergency."

The missive also argues that closing schools has proven ineffective when it comes to significantly curbing the virus' spread, noting that provinces which have continued with in-person learning have seen little transmission within educational settings.

"Online learning is harmful. Social isolation and prolonged in-person school closures have precipitated increases in unhealthy behaviours... and prevented children and youth from engaging in protective behaviours, such as connecting with their peers, participating in sports and recreation, and celebrating milestones," reads the letter.

As many have contended in a more general sense, the physicians also note that the provinces's high levels of vaccination uptake and what they call the "manageable" hospital admission rates of those with the Omicron variant should mean that some settings — in this case, schools — should be able to reopen.

"Fortunately, COVID-19 does not cause serious illness in most children and youth, nor has there been an unmanageable increase in paediatric hospitalizations due to the virus. But there has been increased strain on paediatric and community hospitals due to mental health admissions," the letter concludes before urging for a reopening of schools by Jan. 17 at the latest — nine days before officials are due to reassess current restrictions.

Unfortunately for those speaking out on the topic, responses online thus far have not been all that supportive, with many noting that some healthcare centres in the province are indeed in crisis at the moment thanks to the pandemic, with a total of 2,467 people in Ontario hospitals currently positive for the communicable disease.

A total of 438 of those are in the ICU.

Others are also noting the hypocrisy of physicians advocating for a return to school when many of them still aren't seeing patients in-person at this time, and also the fact that the organizations aren't advocating for greater COVID-19 safety measures in schools, first and foremost.

"The healthcare system is collapsing and THIS from CPS? What the heck alternate universe is this? This is beyond comprehensible. Ambulances are not coming to emergencies. Hospitals are in crisis. HOW, CPS, are you not SHOUTING about increasing safety measures at schools!?," one resident wrote on Twitter in response to the letter.

"This would be a lot less short-sighted and ill-thought out were it to include recommendations for risk mitigation in the schools (sufficient safety protection etc). Otherwise, this is tone deaf," another added.

Comments to a tweet of the letter have since been limited.

The CEO of Actua, a charitable Canadian science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) youth outreach network, released a similar call on Monday, however, saying that "school closures and negative virtual learning experience can have devastating effect on literacy and numeracy, confidence, motivation and love of learning."

Meanwhile, some families have taken to shopping malls such as Yorkdale to demonstrate against the school closures this past week.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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