'This is a public record': These are the pandemic moments Canadians are documenting
CTVNews.ca readers submitted photos showing how they're spending their time during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Compilation photo)
TORONTO -- For some Canadians, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity to slow down and reflect on what matters most to them. For others, it’s been a time of incredible financial stress and uncertainty about the future.
Some have discovered newfound passions or hobbies while others have found comfort in the company of family and friends – even from a distance.
While there have been ups and downs, there has also been overwhelming gratitude for the communities and frontline workers who have worked together to prevent further spread of the virus.
In an effort to gauge how Canadians are reflecting on these extraordinary times, CTVNews.ca asked readers to share what they will remember most from the pandemic.
And although some would rather forget these past few months altogether, many others felt inspired to communicate what has stood out to them during the global health crisis.
Here are some of the moments they would like to remember.
After discovering that a few of his ancestors had died during the Spanish Flu in 1918, celebrated photographer George Pimentel said he began to research that moment in history. Upon looking at the old photos from life during that time, he felt inspired to document the current pandemic for the record.
“It’s important for the Canadian archive to have this,” he explained during a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca on Wednesday. “This is a public record.”
The professional entertainment and events photographer took to the streets to begin shooting photos of daily life in Toronto, where he lives, and posting them on his Instagram.
Pimentel then teamed up with Canadian art expert Sara Angel, who is leading a project called Canada COVID Portrait. The aim of the project is to create an archive, gallery, and book containing photos from the pandemic that have been submitted by Canadians.
“You don't have to be a professional,” Pimentel said. “Professionals, amateurs, people with cell phones, anybody, we wanted everyone’s perspectives.”
As he photographs people in his own neighbourhood and sees the photos submitted by the public, Pimentel said he’s been struck by the emotion in these images. He’s taken photos of a senior woman praying on the steps of a church she couldn’t enter, a homeless man using a fishing pole to hold out a coffee cup for change, and a 13-year-old girl celebrating her birthday on her driveway as friends drove by in vehicles.
“I’m going to remember how people are really suffering,” he said. “But at the same time, that people are still living. They have to live and it’s almost like people are really coming together and doing the best they can to make do with how they live.”
As the photography project shows, Pimentel is far from alone in his endeavour to document life during the pandemic.
Every couple of days, Nancy Iwachniuk and her sister stroll through their small community of Osnabruck Centre in South Stormont, near Cornwall, Ont. On one of their walks around the “country block” in May, she said they decided to take some “memory photos” of their neighbours standing in front of their homes.
“After the go ahead, we did this and made a poster from all of the pictures for our memory of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020,” she wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Monday.
Charlene Hatcher, a 16-year-old from Kingston, N.S., has also taken it upon herself to document her surroundings during the pandemic.
“I’ve been keeping both a written and photo journal ever since March break when school ended to document how COVID-19 has affected me and the effect it has had on Canada and the world,” she said.
TOGETHER, BUT APART
Kathy Vannord, from Springfield, Ont., shared two photos of her husband, Mike, visiting with their two-year-old grandson, Matthew, during the pandemic. In the photos, Mike can be seen crouching down inside the home and looking out through a glass backdoor while his young grandson stands on the other side of the door and looks in.
Vannord described their physically distant visit as “heartbreaking.”
And she’s not the only one who encountered difficulty interacting with loved ones, either.
Laura Wicks, from Richmond, B.C., also sent in photos showing how she visited her parents from afar.
“As someone who was fortunate enough to continue working safely from home, what I'll remember most about the pandemic is having to physically distance from family and friends,” she wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Monday.
In the first photo, Wicks can be seen standing outside while her parents smile inside from behind a screen door. The other photo shows Wicks’ family on a computer screen where they “gathered” for a virtual Easter dinner. She said they did the same thing for Mother’s Day too.
“It was very challenging to not be able to be close to them, but we know that's what was best for everyone's safety,” she said.
For Cindy Ledbury Rebain, seeing family in person was even more difficult due to the restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border.
“I will remember it kept me from meeting my first grandbaby,” she said.
Rebain explained that her grandson was born on March 18 and she had planned to cross the border into the States during the Easter long weekend. Canada and the U.S. closed their shared border to non-essential traffic on March 21.
“I have never gotten to see or hold him. I have no idea when I will get to…makes me so sad,” she said in a comment on the CTV News Facebook page on Monday.
Rebain, who is an assistant adjudicator at the British Columbia Aboriginal Network On Disability Society (BCANDS) in Victoria, B.C., said she plans to travel south as soon they open the borders.
Kyle William, from Winnipeg, said he has gained a new appreciation for relationships that he will take with him once the pandemic is over.
“I learned that life doesn’t revolve around material things, but rather about missing a human connection, not being able to hug your relatives. Will never take a hug for granted again after this, that’s how I’ll remember it,” he said.
As Canadians kept their physical distance from friends and family, they also came together to work for the benefit of their communities.
For Danielle Inglis, the COVID-19 pandemic will be ingrained in her memory as a time of community engagement.
“I’m choosing to see the positive and will always remember the community coming together to support each other and try to make the world a better place,” she wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca on Monday.
Inglis joined her local “Caremongering” group, which has been providing support to seniors and those most at risk from the virus. She said she has been uplifted by her time with the group as they help out in her town of Whitby, Ont.
“As part of one of our weekly challenges, we picked up garbage around the community resulting in over 158 bags of garbage,” she said. “It was wonderful to come together, get outside, meet new people (from a distance) and clean up the community.”
Colleen Fidler, too, has witnessed the power of community engagement in her city during the health crisis.
“I will remember it as a time when most people put aside their petty grievances and came together as one community, looking out for each other and doing what they could to help those in need,” she wrote in a comment on the CTV News Facebook page on Monday.
The Edmonton woman said she saw people forget their differing ideologies and political parties in order to focus on what mattered.
Fidler said she also noticed there was a newfound appreciation for those workers who were underappreciated before the pandemic hit.
“It was a time when we finally realized that those people working those so-called menial jobs that we didn’t believe needed a living wage or respect, were actually the very essential workers that we all relied on to help get us through this time,” she said.
“I hope we can continue to grow and understand that perhaps not everything that happened during this pandemic was bad.”
Natalie Laffin shared those sentiments from her experience living in Nova Scotia during the pandemic and several other tragedies in that province, including mass murder and a military helicopter crash.
“It was the worst and the best,” she said. “We learned very quickly people can come together for one another. We also learned how much tragedy one province can take. Here in N.S., the pandemic might have kept us physically apart, but brought us together is so many wonderful ways. Nova Scotia Strong.”
‘FREEDOM OF BICYCLES’
While some Canadians reflected on their lives and relationships, others said they will most remember how they passed the time as they stayed home to prevent the spread of the virus.
Geoff White said his two children, seven-year-old Cybil and five-year-old Sully, learned to ride bikes without training wheels for the first time within seconds of each other during the pandemic.
He sent a photo showing his children barrelling across a bridge at the Wakefield Mill, located near Wakefield, Que., and another showing Sully approaching a covered bridge near their home in Chelsea, Que.
“The freedom of bicycles will be an enduring memory of this time,” he said in an email to CTVNews.ca on Monday.
Brad McMillan, from Burlington, Ont., said he took advantage of having free time, after he was temporarily laid off in March, to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.
“I made a goal of walking every street in Burlington. A big undertaking but so far, I have walked 563 kilometres over 72 days,” he said.
Tamara Sagherian, from Laval, Que., said will remember the face masks she bought for her husband and three children. She said plans to encourage her children to personalize them for a creative at-home activity later in the week.
And while she has been busy cleaning the reusable masks and drying them on her clothes line, Sagherian will be looking forward to the day she no longer has to wear one.
“Whether I like it or not… wearing a mask to go out into the public bothers me, I mean seriously bothers me from an emotional stand view and gives me panic attacks having something covering up my mouth and nose,” she said in a message to CTVNews.ca on Wednesday.
Linda French, from High River, Alta., said she has also been keeping busy by sewing a quilt in remembrance of the COVID-19 pandemic. She sent a photo of the quilt she made, which includes a depiction of the novel coronavirus.
“I have been documenting various events or thoughts that will be transferred to fabric pages and attached to the back of the project, along with various personal photos,” she said.
French isn’t the only one using the extra time to create something new.
Trina Smith has been passing the time in Bright’s Grove, Ont. by dyeing her own yarn. As a self-described knitter, she said she loves yarn and has been having a great time.
“I have missed volunteering and seeing my grandchildren, but I have been so busy creating gorgeous colours that I haven't really noticed the extra time on my hands,” she said.
Smith said she bought the materials she needed online and dyes the yarn in her basement.
“I have been able to share my coloured yarns on Facebook and have received lots of positive comments. And, of course, I have lots of yarn to knit my grandchildren back-to-school sweaters for September!” she said.
PREFER TO FORGET
While some Canadians want to document the event, there were many others who said they’d prefer to forget the pandemic and all of the hardships that came out of it.
George Booth, from Kitchener, Ont., said he’s been waiting to have his broken tooth fixed since early April, he’s been unable to visit his mother who lives on her own, he’s had to cancel vacations, music ensembles, and he’s been unable to attend church.
“You think I want to remember this??? It’s 3+ months of my life I'll never get back! This event will be ERASED from my memory!!!” he said.
Jocelyn Plante, from Halifax, was of a similar opinion when he wrote that the health emergency has interfered with his freedom.
“I have had to cancel two out-of-country vacations and it has kept me from visiting distant family members,” he said in a Facebook message to CTVNews.ca. “I hate this COVID pandemic.”
Rebecca Paul, from Toronto, said she is not creating any memories during this time.
“I don’t want to remember or memorialize one single moment of this nightmare,” she said in a comment on the CTV News Facebook page.
As Canadians struggle to make ends meet during these challenging economic times, Yudhi Rodriguez said she is taking a look at the bright side and choosing to remain focused on the positive.
“The whole world stopped, but I felt grateful and blessed to have a warm bed, food on our table, hot and cold water, electricity, gas, time with our loved ones at home, time to Facetime the far away family and friends, time to do porch visits to family and friends, time to cook, time to play, time to read, time to reflect and see what's really important in our lives,” she wrote.
Theresa Christina, too, said she took pleasure in the “forced relaxation” and found that she was able to prioritize what’s important and accomplish what she needed to during the pandemic.
“It was also a good time to really overlook [sic] things and make adjustments to better suit my needs... i.e. finances. I cut out a lot of ‘wants’ and know to better myself financially for the future, in case we go through something like this again. I love finding the positive in everything,” she said.
Alya Shivji, from Kitchener, Ont., said she will remember the health crisis as a time when the world stopped and how she adapted to it.
“Feeling grateful for spending the time with my family and becoming closer with my son and helping with homeschooling every day, Monday to Friday,” she wrote.
Pimentel said he, too, has gained a new perspective on how life has changed during the pandemic and how important it is to remember how people were able to adapt to their new realities.
“I will be able to save these precious photos for the archives so that maybe our grandchildren will be able to look at them one day because right now, things are not normal. And I feel that it should be documented,” he said.