Corks popped and the Champagne flowed amongst the Prime Minister’s staff to celebrate a great Canadian achievement one day after The Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre completed the sequencing of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus that is plaguing China as well as Canada. The Prime Minister even called, immediately, to congratulate the person responsible for the accomplishment. “You don’t know how proud we are,” Chretien said in a phone call. “We were cheering. We were toasting you. You’re so cool and so good we were jumping in the room:” An aide to the PM said Chretien was so excited he shouted “let’s have champagne,” shook the bottle and the cork hit the ceiling.
Well could you blame him? The sequencing of this virus is fundamental for vaccine development, a vaccine that could stop this worldwide killer in its tracks. It is definitely time to celebrate – celebrate a possible cure, celebrate Canadian science, and celebrate our health care system. Well no one could blame him, except the PM was risking a coronary in excitement about a golf championship.
You see the PM was celebrating a Canadian Golfer’s victory at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta Georgia only moments before. He wasted no time making the congratulatory phone call, and he wasted no time in popping the cork on the bottle of champagne he was probably saving for the day his legacy showed up. The priority, it would seem, when it comes to Canadian achievement, is sports and not medicine; although this should be no surprise looking at how the Liberals have handled our health care system.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-sport or anti-golf, I love walking around in nicely groomed parks as much as the next guy. What does bug me is that there was no mention of The Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre getting a toast, there was no mention of the PM “jumping around” in joy, there was no mention of a phone call on the same day telling the scientists “You’re so cool.” It seems to me that sports and things that give us a testosterone rush and make us want to beat our chests and grunt often overshadow the real achievements in this country. I mean really, what would usher in the end of civilization sooner, a lack of golf and professional sports, or a lack of medical professionals and scientists? The mainstream media does not help much in this area either. The Ottawa Sun had the Masters story ahead of the SARS sequencing accomplishment, and even gave it extra coverage on pages 48 and 54; sorry no extra room available for the SARS accomplishment unfortunately.
So while it may seem that the PM’s priorities are misplaced, maybe we should all examine ourselves when it comes to national pride. If you don’t think the PM, the media, or even Joe Canadian are victims of misplaced priorities when it comes to national pride then tell me, what’s the name of ANY of the Canadian scientists who helped discover the SARS sequence? What’s the name of the Canadian golfer who just won the Masters?
If you knew the name of a scientist then kudos to you; I am guessing that most could only come up with the golfer’s name, Mike Weir. If you could guess none, you may want to consider getting out a little between study sessions.
My point is this, some say Canadians need a deeper, more tangible sense of national pride. I would say there is a lot more to be proud of than sports championships, you just have to look for it; often mind you, after the third page.
BTW, Dr. Marco Marra is the laboratory director for The Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre in BC. Congratulations Dr. Marra and staff, the rest of us toast you!
Quotes and references from the April 13th and 14th 2003 editions of the Ottawa Sun:
Canadian Press Report, Canadian lab cracks virus code, Ottawa Sun. April 13, 2003 Volume 15 Number 33 Page 3.
Canadian Press Report, Weir at the top of the sports world, Ottawa Sun. April 14, 2003 Volume 15 Number 111 Page 2.