BY IAN PATTISON

The coronavirus crisis has produced countless tragic stories. Among them are business failures forced upon entrepreneurs who can’t make ends meet as this pandemic drags on . . . and on. The Finlandia Association of Thunder Bay is one of those. Events this week mark the apparent end of not just the internationally-known and -loved Hoito restaurant, but a cache of labour history and Finn culture in the largest Finnish community outside Helsinki.

COVID-19 has forced the Bay Street hall into liquidation following a vote by a majority of association members this week. But the decline and fall of the hall and restaurant began long before this pandemic.

For several years now there have been rumblings about “changes” that didn’t sit well with people, including some patrons of the Hoito who felt the famous down-to-earth food just wasn’t as good as it used to be.

Combine that with the opening of a raft of new restaurants, including several right in the Hoito’s Bay-and-Algoma neighbourhood, and it’s easy to see how any decline in quality would hurt the business.

In 2013, the board of the Finlandia Association decided to try to appeal to a more upscale clientele by opening the Embassy Bar and Bistro in the space above the Hoito. The experiment did not pay off and the restaurant was closed after just a year.

Meanwhile, the overall operation was sinking under a $1-million debt. Thus, a mere $2,000 overdue payment at the Royal Bank was seen as impossible to pay since the Hoito was producing no income during the pandemic.

RBC refused an extension though the association had never missed a payment before. Thunder Bay is noted for its “giant heart.” RBC, not so much.

Making a go of a restaurant is difficult at the best of times. Trying to maintain the Hoito and the rest of the operation proved too much for the volunteer board and so liquidation is under way. Unlike bankruptcy, liquidation leaves open the possibility of some sort of reorganization.

It is likely that supporters are crafting ideas to try and find a way to save the operation in some form. No one wants this beloved city icon to disappear. Everyone should hope for determined efforts and look for ways to support them. Those pancakes on that griddle may yet be served again.

THE SPREAD OF SILLY

Speaking of coronavirus victims, truth and common sense are strangely absent in a segment of the population that wants to believe the worst. Conspiracy theories are bouncing around social media like ping-pong balls, served and returned with comments that defy belief.

My personal favourite is the claim that COVID-19 is an abbreviation for Certificate of Vaccination Identification by Artificial Intelligence.

As Reuters’ fact-checking arm explains, the post breaks down each letter of COVID-19 by the corresponding word and then says, “let this sink in.... Certificate Of Vaccination Identification (COVID).” It explains the number 19 by saying it is a reference to artificial intelligence, or A.I., the first and ninth letters of the alphabet.

It is breathtaking. It is silly. It is untrue.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website: “The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease.”

 Billionaire Bill Gates is another target of the conspiracy crowd, apparently building a plan to eradicate all kinds of people and profit by force-vaccinating the rest and implanting them with microchips in order to track them with digital ID. Really!

There’s an online clip of a “slip of the tongue” in which Gates allegedly says, “there’s a chance for us to share, things like producing childhood death and improving nutrition . . . ” So Gates is now a would-be child murderer? Come on!

A quick listen to the audio shows that Gates actually says, “reducing childhood death.”

Gates is spending millions of his own dollars to try and find a way out of this pandemic. Why do people want to believe the worst of him? Because he’s rich? That’s a crime now?

Those who prefer to buy into this junk should know that nearly half of the Twitter accounts spreading messages on the social media platform about the coronavirus pandemic are likely bots. NPR reports that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University culled through more than 200 million tweets discussing the virus since January and found that about 45 per cent were sent by accounts that behave more like computerized robots than humans.

It is too early to say which individuals or groups are behind the bot accounts, NPR says, but researchers said the tweets appeared aimed at sowing division in America -- and untold numbers of Canadians are buying in.

If you are one of them, ask yourself this question: Has my doctor, others in his or her clinic, the staffs of the district health unit, regional hospital, and health care personnel throughout Canada and the world -- have all of these people bought into the nefarious things being claimed? Because they’d have to in order for many of them to succeed.

JUSTICE FOR SMITH

Before signing off today I’d like to repeat a vote of confidence in Justice Patrick Smith, a Thunder Bay jurist of the highest order whose good name was dragged through the mud by an overzealous overseer intent on pursuing a politically-correct vendetta.

Smith agreed to step in as temporary dean of Lakehead University’s law school when its first dean, an American indigenous woman, abruptly quit claiming racism inside the institution. The jury is still out on that one but the verdict is in on Smith and it’s a resounding victory for truth and reason.

Acting on a baseless claim that Smith should not serve as dean because he was not aboriginal, and a complaint about his sentencing the chief and council of a northern First Nation to jail for breaking the law around a mining claim after having given them repeated chances to work things out with the company, the Canadian Judicial Council bent itself into a pretzel to support an investigation. Smith has long been a known champion of aboriginal rights and to think that anyone in authority in Canada’s legal system could think otherwise is, well, unthinkable.

Smith appealed to the Federal Court which this week ripped into the council, saying its disciplinary procedure was "misused from the beginning."

Two years ago I wrote here that Smith is a judge, “who is able to see injustice where it occurs, apportion blame where it belongs, and urge in all sincerity that parties strive for fair and reasonable solutions to their differences.” The Federal Court of Canada has essentially reached the same conclusion and a good man is free again to pursue the course of justice in this country.

Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs. 

Recommended for you