Rupa Subramanya: How Ottawa exploited our fear to limit our liberties


A Charter of Rights Freedoms poster at the Freedom Convoy demonstration downtown Ottawa on February 08, 2022. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia

On June 14, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suspended its controversial vaccine mandates as they applied to federal workplaces and for travel, the two sectors where the federal government had the authority to issue regulations. However, ministers made it clear that the mandates weren’t dead but merely suspended and could be revived if circumstances warranted. On August 2, my story for Bari Weiss’s Common Sense Substack blog based on a legal challenge to the vaccine mandate for travel before the Federal Court of Canada, made abundantly clear that at least this particular mandate had a lot to do with politics and much less to do with science and evidence. While we’ve not had a comparable court case for the federal workplace mandate, the documents made public in the travel mandate case cast serious doubt on Trudeau’s claim that his government followed science and the evidence.

Rather, as I argued in the Telegraph recently, the much more likely explanation is that vaccine mandates proved a useful wedge issue in the lead up to last fall’s election. I am often asked about why I supported mandates last year and I’m strongly opposed to them now. The simple explanation is that, as the facts changed, my thinking changed last fall. I was already wary given that Trudeau had politicized the pandemic for electoral advantage.

Then, the advent of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, I believe was a game changer. Now, vaccinated people, depending on whether they’ve had two or three shots and how long ago, are often just as likely to transmit the virus as the unvaccinated, and this makes complete nonsense of the mandates whose explicit purpose is to reduce transmission. Similarly, it made nonsense of provincial mandates which prevented unvaccinated individuals from getting access to restaurants and other public places. If one person not getting vaccinated significantly increases the possibility of others getting the virus, one could make a public health argument for vaccination on that basis, weighing that against the deprivation of individual liberty.

In retrospect, I’m sceptical that this made much sense even before Omicron, since we now know that a significant number of «breakthrough» infections were occurring. With Omicron, this argument is much less valid. Diminishing public health benefits do not justify overriding an individual’s choice on whether to get vaccinated or not. That’s the rational explanation.

But if I think back to last spring and summer as the Delta wave ravaged the country where I was born, India, like many others I had succumbed to a narrative of fear. In my case, my unvaccinated parents in India got Delta, and this was a time when it was almost impossible to get a cylinder of oxygen or a hospital bed in the event you fell ill even if you could afford to pay for it.

Source: Rupa Subramanya | NP

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