Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix during a COVID-19 update. (B.C. government)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix during a COVID-19 update. (B.C. government)

Dr. Bonnie Henry denies ‘constant condescension’ to faith community

‘It’s not condescension, it’s gratitude,’ Health Minister Dix tells Reverend Dyck

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix responded Thursday to what appears to be a growing gulf between themselves and some members of the faith community concerning the messaging coming out of their COVID-19 briefings.

Reverend Aaron Dyck, of Gateway Baptist Church, has written an open letter to Dix in which he wrote he feels “compelled as a faith leader to request that people of faith be given the respect that is so overtly presented to every other particular group in this great province.

“The constant condescension by Dr. Henry, purporting to tell us ‘what faith is’ and the endless patronization – as if the government ‘understands’ anything at all about what constitutes faith itself, let alone its practice – has long past worn thin,” the reverend wrote.

Henry’s response to this Thursday was that she thinks people sometimes “take what I say and twist it to make their own ideas about it.

“I have repeatedly said that I have taken advice and have had the privilege of speaking to many faith leaders in the last few months and I appreciate their advice immensely,” she told the Now-Leader.

Henry said she’s learned a “tremendous amount” from faith leaders and has said on occasion what she’s been told about beliefs and about faith. “And I do absolutely believe that we need our faith leaders in crises like these, more than ever before, and I really want to give my thanks and praise to the many, many leaders out there who have sent me their advice, their thinking, their thoughts, and the fact that they do understand we need to take measures to protect those that we care most about in our community right now.”

READ ALSO: Celebrating Easter in Surrey, during COVID-19

READ ALSO LETTER: Please, some respect for what you have taken

Henry said she doesn’t purport to know everybody’s ideas about faith, but knows there are “great leaders” in that community who are “stepping up every day and supporting the people they care about in their congregations and doing it in a safe way, and I just want salute them – they have my gratitude, and my admiration.”

In his letter to Dix, the reverend wrote, “Good sir, I beg you: at the risk of alienating permanently the approximately two million British Columbians who practise religion, at least stop pretending that there is somehow a virtual replacement for thousands of years of physical, incarnational ministry. Tell us this is wrong. Tell us this is not OK. Tell us this is, in fact, an evil, however necessary, and stop with the platitudes. We are in your corner, but cannot for much longer be told this “isn’t a big deal” when it comes to practising a faith more than a dozen times older than the nation of Canada itself.”

What faith leaders would appreciate, Dyck told Dix, is “some respect for what you have taken from us, the cost to our people, and an acknowledgment that nothing replaces what we have laid down in order to support you and your efforts.”

The health minister’s response to the reverend is that the provincial government, since the outset of the pandemic, has listened to and reached out to hundreds of faith leaders across B.C. He admitted his idea of faith is not necessarily shared by everyone, but added that “I can tell Reverend Dyck that at our church, that we’ve lost a lot of loved ones this year, including our minister, and the loss of being able to come together on Sunday has been profound for members of that congregation just as they have been for congregations around B.C.”

Dix said he’s “overwhelmingly” inspired by the work done by faith communities of all faiths and all denominations to support people in their communities during this difficult time.

“All I can say is it’s not condescension, it’s gratitude that we feel for the support we get in our community, wherever we find it,” Dix told the Now-Leader. “And for many people, that’s in communities of faith. So, we’re with you and we’re asking you to join us in helping in this period to help heal, heal ourselves physically, and protect ourselves and our good health, and also stay healed and stay better as a community.

“I think Dr. Henry has been unbelievably respectful,” Dix said in her defence. “I so admire her approach when she talks about kindness, which is at the core I think of many faiths’ views as well. She lives that every day and I’m so, so proud to stand with her and I just so disagree with the criticism that came in the letter.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

CoronavirusSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 test tube. (Via Getty)
COVID-19 moving out of southern Interior and into the north: IH

IH says vaccinations reaching care homes, Big White cluster hard to control, virus spike in Fernie

Medical chief of staff Dr. Brad Raison of Penticton Regional Hospital and John Moorhouse of the Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation look over one of the rooms in the David E. Kampe Tower in 2017 while the tower was under construction. (Western News File)
After 46 years in media, Moorhouse retires

John Moorhouse spent the last six years with the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES)
Overdose calls spike in 2020 across the Okanagan – Shuswap

Stats show every major community in Okanagan - Shuswap increased in calls for potential overdoses

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: COVID-19 restrictions continue to affect us all

Canada has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases of pandemic

A couple living at the Summerland Waterfront Resort is trying to sell their unit because of strata changes which will require them to pay significantly higher strata fees or have their unit included in the resort’s rental pool (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Permanent residents of Summerland resort must move or face major fee increase

Permanent residents of Summerland Waterfront Resort told fees will more than double

Charlotte is one of the resident pigs at Star's Piggly Wiggly's Sanctuary near Kelowna. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-area pig sanctuary needs a new home

Star’s Piggly Wiggly’s Sanctuary is looking for properties in Vernon, Coldstream, and Enderby

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
One in five tests in Fernie area coming back positive: doctor

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
From the “You can’t make this stuff up” file – stories from the BC CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Public provoking blamed for moose chasing Okanagan residents

‘The problem is people are bugging it’ conservation officer

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Most Read