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

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to Stoney and Minnie lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Clearwater his home to many animals, large and small. A community vet is sorely needed, according to a new coalition that is getting the wheels turning in a recruitment campaign for Clearwater. (Claire Hanna photo)
Locals band together to recruit veterinarian to community

A recruitment campaign is in the works as current vet to retire in June

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

Most Read