A lot has been asked of Canadians over the past two years, and the vast majority have been dutiful, obedient, and sacrificial in doing their part to keep our country going during an unprecedented global pandemic.
But as we enter year three of COVID, sentiments are shifting. Canadians are increasingly at odds with each other and with their political leaders. Our culture is fractured and frustrated. With each lockdown and mandate, we feel our rights and freedoms diminishing.
Indeed, Canadians are not determined to be disobedient or unlawful, but they are starting to ask legitimate questions about their fading sense of personal freedom.
One freedom that is increasingly elusive is called freedom of conscience. It is the first fundamental freedom listed in section two of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is the power of the individual to have his/her own opinions and beliefs, and live according to those views.
One emerging threat to our freedom of conscience is mandatory vaccines. The federal government has mandated that all essential service providers be fully vaccinated. Ironically, this is the same government that called vaccine passports and mandates “divisive and potentially discriminatory” less than a year ago. Currently, hospitals and health authorities are demanding that all healthcare workers be vaccinated or face termination. Many companies are making the same demands of their employees. Crossing the border for work or for pleasure demands proof of vaccination.
Prior to 2021, Canadians have been free to object to medical procedures based on their freedom of conscience. There are risks and benefits to any procedure, which vary significantly from person to person. There are many reasons why someone might opt for, or opt out of taking the COVID vaccines. The heavy-handed nature of the vaccine mandates have stripped many Canadians of the freedom to make that choice.
Does modern science really demand that we sacrifice our freedom of conscience?
We don’t really know the answer to that because governments and many media outlets have essentially shut down any conversation that includes opposing viewpoints. New studies about the virus and the efficacy of various vaccines are emerging almost daily, and many well-established medical professionals are opposed to mandatory vaccines based on bio-ethical grounds. Yet there has been no willingness to even consider perspectives that differ from the government’s narrative. Censorship and cancel-culture has become alarmingly common.
This weekend, thousands of vehicles (mostly long-haul trucks) from across Canada gathered in Ottawa to protest the government’s various COVID mandates. Having journeyed the Trans Canada Highway, under the name Freedom Convoy 2022, the whole world will get a chance to see how this movement unfolds.
These truckers, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, are taking action to defend the basic belief that every Canadian should be free to choose medical procedures without facing discrimination or restrictions on their life. Most Canadians would have no problem supporting such a fundamental and liberating cause, yet the major news networks chose to focus on the aggressive and divisive allegations that “far-right and white nationalist groups” had co-opted the Freedom Convoy for their own purposes. Further, one report even claimed "extreme voices are hoping to capitalize on their anger" and turn this protest into "Canada's version of last year's January 6 riot in Washington."
The language used by the media as they cover protests like the Freedom Convoy is important because it has incredible power to shape opinions. A lot of major media tends to demonize the unvaccinated, and a January Maru poll showed the depths of that influence: 37% of Canadians believe that it would be acceptable to deny the unvaccinated publicly funded health care while 27% agreed that a short jail sentence could be a useful means of enforcing vaccine mandates.
Suddenly 1 in 4 Canadians would like to see their neighbour jailed for potentially harbouring a virus that they themselves are vaccinated for?
Instead of demonstrating the politeness which we're known for, we've been subtly encouraged to get angry and finger-point. The vaccine narrative presented to Canadians leaves very little room for critical thinking or diversity of thought. It is difficult to make informed choices when the information provided is selective or deliberately misleading.
I have never been so focused in my search for facts and knowledge. I don’t want to limit myself to any one particular set of ideas forever. What I really want is truth.
Regardless of the different political, religious, or ideological labels we wear, one thing unites us: we all want to think for ourselves. We Canadians are long overdue for the opportunity to exercise our freedom of conscience when it comes to navigating COVID together. The notion that “freedom” and “science” are at odds with each other is just simply untrue.