Handful of local businesses remaining open through lockdown under We Are Essential Network

May 6, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Open. Close. Open. Close.

The endless cycle of openings and closures due to COVID-19 has undoubtedly hit small businesses’ the hardest and some are remaining open despite the latest lockdown restrictions, as it’s seen as their only option left to avoid bankruptcy.

When the most recent lockdown happened at the start of April, local hairdresser, Jessica Marshall, who does one on one appointments out of her home, said she was left with no other choice but to operate.

“If I didn’t break the rules, I would have lost my home… the government options don’t cover you,” she said, noting CERB would barely pay for her mortgage.

But last Friday, following complaints about her operation to Public Health and Orangeville’s by-law department, she too has been forced to close.

Marshall has worked in Orangeville as a hairdresser for 10 years and left the salon she had been working at three months into the first lockdown last March. She had since been working from home, while following all the Public Health protocols.

Marshall is one of six Orangeville businesses that continued operating through the last lockdown, under a network called We Are All Essential comprised of over 1,200 member businesses across Canada. There are also two businesses still operating in Shelburne.

These businesses range from spa services, physiotherapy and financial services to headshops and tattoo parlors.

Kimberly DaPonte, who’s one of the founding members of the We Are All Essential network, and operator of a local spa, said the lockdown restrictions to self-care services are illogical due to the fact that there’s been zero reported outbreaks in the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region. However, it is these sectors that are impacted the most, she noted.

“They are shutting down any businesses that supply a ‘feel good service’, anything that contributes to improving someone’s mental health,” said DaPonte.

“We are faced with a catastrophic wave of bankruptcies and foreclosures, a quarter of a million businesses will be closing in Canada by summer of this year – 90,000 of those in Ontario.”

The We Are All Essential Network has a business directory of those that are staying open and as of yet, no one from Public Health or the provincial government has attempted to shut the network down as a whole.

The founder, Vladislav Sobolev did a soft launch of We Are All Essential soft launch at Dundas Square in Toronto last November with a protest in support of small businesses and since then the network has continued to grow.

Sobolev is originally from the Soviet Union and was born into communism before escaping to Canada.

“He has been a business owner in Canada for many years and foresaw this assault on the small business class as it is part of the standard playbook for installing a tyrannical government,” said Samantha Flatman, managing director of We Are All Essential.

“One cannot have independent, free-thinkers and that is the very nature of entrepreneurs. The most effective way to gain control over this sector of the population is to economically suppress them and that is why uniting small business owners through a business empowerment network like We Are All Essential is critical.”

Flatman told the Citizen that the network doesn’t believe the forced closures of small business is justified by “real data” and that they cause more harm than good.

The World Health Organization has stated that lockdowns have, “a profound negative impact on individuals, communities and societies by bringing social and economic life to a near stop,” while noting vulnerable groups are disproportionately impacted.

However, the World Monetary Fund (WMF) has argued that while lockdowns impose a short-term cost, they lead to a faster economic recover. The organization says that by bringing infection rates under control, lockdowns pave the way for a faster economic recovery as people feel more comfortable returning to normal activates. Studies also suggest stay-at-home orders reduce transmission rates of the virus.

Meanwhile, the We Are All Essential network doesn’t have an in-house legal team in the event one of their members is charged for violating provincial or Public Health orders, but they do provide information on how to contest tickets and connect their members with organizations that provide legal support at no cost.

We Are All Essential is currently looking into establishing itself as a lobby group for the small business sector across Canada and Flatman says it will continue supporting the preservation of as many small businesses as possible in the meantime.

“The only way this ends is when we stand together in united non-compliance to protect the land of the brave and free, to make Canada great again and to be sovereign beings,” she remarked.

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