Canadian trackers are misguided regarding vaccine mandate - GulfToday

Canadian trackers are misguided regarding vaccine mandate

Sean O'Grady


Associate Editor of the Independent.

Trucks sit parked on Wellington Street near the Parliament Buildings to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.   Reuters

Trucks sit parked on Wellington Street near the Parliament Buildings to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Reuters

Is Canada about to have its “6 January Capitol riot” moment? Obviously not, because it’s Canada. And also because even America’s “6 January” moment, though an attempted insurrection of unprecedented kind, didn’t actually overthrow the government of the United States, as we see. It was embarrassing, unlawful, and a mad, pitiful attempt at revolution, but it was never going to succeed (you’d hope). Nor will this.

When the so-called Freedom Convoy truckers eventually haul themselves away from the federal parliament building in Ottawa, the democratically elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau, will still be governing the nation, the governor-general will still be in place, and the vaccine mandate still in force.

Canada’s cabinet will meet as usual, and it will not have been replaced by a “governing committee” dedicated to overturning the vaccine mandate, as demanded by the protesters and the Canada Unity group. In due course, the Lenins of the north in their lumberjack gear will get back to their important work, and life will resume in the pleasant, polite, dull way that Canadians are accustomed to.

It will pass, though Canada’s police will have some difficulty bridging the transition. The truckers and their allies want to change Canadian public health laws that are apparently supported by most Canadians, passed by parliament and which do not, in the opinion of the courts thus far, unlawfully restrict Canadians’ human rights.

They cry “freedom” but the only limit on their freedom is a routine requirement for the unvaccinated coming back over the US border to quarantine.

This is to help slow the spread into Canada of COVID, although vaccines may not prevent it entirely, and help encourage the population to reach herd immunity.

Doing so via vaccines is preferable to acquiring it through natural immunity, by the way, because natural immunity means you have to suffer a dose of this nasty and still potentially fatal disease. That’s the snag with that approach.

The vaccine mandate is a draconian measure, it’s as well to concede. It requires the truckers (and others moving across the US border) to do something they’d rather not do. It is for the benefit of society as a whole as well as themselves, just like banning smoking in bars means we can no longer enjoy a cigarette with our beer.

Losing that freedom, too, was annoying, and arguably nothing to do with anyone else, but necessary for a greater good. Some people cannot accept that. Hence the anger. It is the same anger that is being voiced around the world as vaccine mandates have been introduced by desperate governments.

In Britain, the government is about to execute (another) policy U-turn on mandatory vaccination for NHS staff, not because of protests but through normal political pressures and the number of medical staff refusing or not getting around to having their jabs.

They are a minority (interestingly around the same proportion of 5 to 10 per cent of workers as with the Canadian truckers), but in a health system so pressurised, and with staff shortages anyway, they could turn an acute situation worse. There are marches and protests about vaccination mandates from Denmark to Australia. Some have turned nasty.

For now, though, this Canadian protest is largely peaceful, if volatile and menacing. There are US confederate flags to be spotted, the odd swastika, perhaps aimed more at Trudeau than as a symbol of neo-Nazism, and upside-down Canadian national flags. These gestures cannot represent most Canadians.

Yet the ridiculous idea is being put around that big mass meetings such as this one prove in some way that the majority of the people approve of the cause — just as the 6 January protesters in Washington DC believed they were acting on behalf of a disenfranchised population rebelling against a stolen election. It’s the theatrical illusion of the Trumpian mass rally or the huge protest marches.

They signal a certain strand of public opinion, but they don’t replace elections or parliamentary votes. Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, has backed the Canadian truckers. Russell Brand, a man who once told people not to vote in a general election, is all in favour.

Elon Musk, a very clever and wealthy man who should know better, is also supporting them — “Canadian Truckers Rule”. Fair enough, provided that’s taken literally and the governance of the planet is entrusted to a small cadre of Canadians who can reverse very long articulated vehicles safely. I wouldn’t put that past him.

Musk, responding to the footage of crowded Ottawa streets, said: “It would appear that the so-called ‘fringe minority’ is actually the government.” Displaying a poor grasp of the essentials of representative democracy, Musk has also tweeted: “If the government had the mandate of the people, there would be a significant counter-protest. There is not, therefore they do not.”

Hasn’t Musk heard of the “silent majority”? Does he mistake a big queue of lorries for a resolution of the Senate of Canada? Does he think Trudeau is one of the lizard people and just hitch-hiked from space with fellow Canadian William Shatner on one of Musk’s Blue Origin jaunts? As far as I understand it, Trudeau managed a pretty weak victory in the last election. That doesn’t give him the right to trample on civil rights, and his attitude to the protesters has been haughty and dismissive, but he’s maybe not quite the vicious fascist dictator he’s being painted as.

I’m not sure, by the way, what Elon Musk has in mind for democratic reform in Canada. Perhaps he thinks that, instead of the House of Commons convening today to debate the crisis, there should just be an open invitation to all Canadians to get in their Teslas, if applicable, and meet outside the parliament building for a massive brawl to settle the vaccine mandate question once and for all.

It might work, in the way that so many of Musk’s other ideas “might” work. For what it’s worth, I reckon the case for vaccine mandates isn’t as strong as it was when Omicron first appeared, because we now know it causes less severe illness, on the whole. Not mild, at all, just less of a killer (if you’re vaccinated or have natural immunity).

Practically, I’d suspend the policy until another potentially more deadly variant turns up — its a decision made in the light of circumstances, on merit. If necessary, I’d still mandate vaccines, and extend them if needs be in the UK to all public facing workers. But that’s for another time and another variant.

There’s a debate to be had, and yes, protests to be made, as ever. From what we can see, the Canadian protesters are a mixed congregation of bullies, misguided innocents, conspiracy theorists, libertarians, politicians looking for a bandwagon, grifters and dangerous anti-vaxxers indulging in performative protest and, in their own world, virtue signalling. They are making life hellish for many in Ottawa. But let them. Sooner or later they will melt away like the winter snows.

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