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

Ladysmith Secondary School. (File photo)
Ladysmith Secondary reports another COVID-19 exposure

This makes LSS the school with the most exposure days in the Island Health region currently

Plantitude’s ‘Stargazer Bubbles’. (Plantitude photo)
Plantitude offers ‘stargazer bubble’ dining experience

The 10 foot by seven foot bubbles can seat up to six people

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

Ladysmith’s famous Festival of Lights decorations are still up as of March 1, 2021. (Cole Schisler photo)
PHOTOS: It’s still looking a lot like Christmas in Ladysmith

Festival of Lights volunteers cannot remove the holiday roof top displays due to COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccines were available at a site on East Pender in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Feb. 25. (Twitter/Sarahblyth17)
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents offered $5 after getting COVID-19 vaccine

It’s an effort to ‘incentivize people to engage,’ says B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix

</p>
A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. teacher transferred then suspended after students report feeling ‘scared, nervous’

Authorities found that teacher did not create inviting, respectful environment for students

Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries offers cheaper, prepaid fare options

Ferry service preparing for busy terminals when travel restrictions are lifted

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Most Read