Opinion

LETTER: 'Ignorant' cartoon was offensive

This Ingrid Rice cartoon, published in the March 13 Times, drew ire from the anti-vax religious group in Chilliwack at the centre of the latest measles epidemic. - Ingrid Rice
This Ingrid Rice cartoon, published in the March 13 Times, drew ire from the anti-vax religious group in Chilliwack at the centre of the latest measles epidemic.
— image credit: Ingrid Rice

Re: Ignorance cartoon (Thursday, March 14 – Chilliwack Times)

I take offense with the cartoon published in the Times this past Thursday that equates non-vaccination with ignorance. To be clear, I am not complaining about the news article published in the same edition titled, “Isolation the Only Answer.” I found that article a relatively fair, factual, and accurate portrayal of the measles outbreak. My concern is the allegation of ignorance in the cartoon indirectly pointed at my church and school community, an allegation bordering on libel.

So we are ignorant. How, may I ask, do you define ignorance? A quick search of numerous dictionaries leaves me with a clear sense. For example, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as, “a lack of knowledge, understanding, or education.” Wiktionary (online) defines it as, “The condition of being uninformed or uneducated; lack of knowledge or information." How, I ask again, do you define it? It seems to me it is fair for your readers to utilize the conventional definitions listed above.

What gives you the idea we are uninformed and/or uneducated? That we lack knowledge and understanding? You may disagree with my beliefs and/or personal choices but I fail to see how that somehow gives you supernatural insight as to my mental capacity and why I make the choices I do. I have five years of secular university at both UFV and SFU, graduating on the Dean’s List in 2008. I keep abreast of world affairs and current events. I have made it my business to study both (or is it multiple) sides of the vaccination debate and, in spite of all this, I still choose to not vaccinate for various reasons; some health, some personal, and some religious.

Our church community’s position on vaccination is being labelled as a danger to society. Let’s check my math. Fraser Health tells us that the eastern Fraser Valley has immunization rates of 60 to 70 per cent. My church community totals about 1,200 people. If the eastern Fraser Valley has a population of 125,000 (excluding Abbotsford) that make this church community less than one per cent of the population. Since the 60 to 70 per cent are certainly safe, let’s talk about the other 29 to 39 per cent of the population that remain unvaccinated? Where are they? Are they also ignorant? It seems to me you’re talking about a lot of ignorant people!

My community is labelled as ignorant, but from what I know the vast majority of its members are cooperating fully with Fraser Health. We are following isolation guidelines, have cancelled travel plans, birthday parties and pretty much any sort of social interaction. This cooperation has been modelled by our church and school leadership as evidenced by the acknowledgment of Fraser Health officials that, “Conversations with church and school officials have been fruitful.”

For the record, I also have four children, one of them with the measles, the others obviously exposed to it, and I still stand behind my decision not to vaccinate, albeit with concern for the effects of this disease. Does this make us lousy parents, as some would like to imply? A fair assessment of this question would also take into account that my children are well fed, live in a stable home, and are surrounded by a loving (extended) family.

I really hope that readers of this letter will, notwithstanding their disagreement with our personal choice to remain unvaccinated, respect the fact that we are not ignorant, but in fact thoughtful and engaged contributors to society. Labelling us as ignorant is neither fair nor helpful.

Ron Neels

Chilliwack

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