Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair responds to backlash over Sun column about COVID-19, says her only aim was to ‘promote discourse’
By Catherine Toth
May 17, 2020
On Friday, I published an article in my weekly column, the Sun-Times’ Public Health column, which was titled “It’s OK to be mad after all.” I acknowledged in the article that during the past week or so, as we approach Memorial Day weekend, I received a number of messages from people who were unhappy with the story. I also received a few angry responses, but I wasn’t surprised to hear their comments.
There was one point I made in the column that I considered to be controversial in some way — I referred, in the article, to the late New York Times writer Judith Burns as a “sophisticated hypocrite” for being “bemused” that she criticized Mayor de Blasio’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. I also referred to the people who died of COVID-19 as having been “blessed” by the pandemic.
That provoked a number of reactions, including a complaint that I was being unfair to Judith Burns, and a number of people claiming that the article “isn’t balanced.”
While I was pleased that a number of people who read my article were supportive of my argument about the significance of the lives of people who died of COVID-19, I was also disappointed that not everyone agreed with me.
Even though I wrote the article in response to a story about how the city reacted to the pandemic, there were some who argued that the article didn’t do justice to the deaths of people who died of COVID-19, and that it was “hurtful and insensitive.”
I disagreed with those critics. I argued, in the article, that it was wrong to ignore the realities of human lives and to downplay the contributions that people make to society. I also