‘Wrongheaded’: Left-leaning Canadian legal group warns Trudeau against COVID immunity passports
OTTAWA, Canada, December 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A prominent left-leaning civil liberties group in Canada is warning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with the country’s citizens that “immunity passports” for those who receive the COVID-19 vaccination shot would ultimately become tools for government-backed “abuse, discrimination, and oppression.”
Last week, Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott sparked a national debate when she suggested that people may need proof of COVID vaccination for “travel,” “work,” and for going to the “theatre” or “any other places where people will be in closer physical contact,” which could include shopping centers, restaurants, and even churches.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) immediately hit back against what it called a “wrongheaded” solution with a strongly worded Dec. 9 opinion piece on its own website, a Dec. 9 piece published in the Toronto Star, and with a Dec. 12 open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
COVID vaccination: ‘An offer one can’t refuse?’
In her opinion piece published on CCLA’s website Dec. 9, the CCLA’s Director of Privacy Brenda McPhail said that Elliott’s threat of restrictions for those who don’t have proof of receiving the COVID vaccine will “strike fear” in the heart of many Canadians because it comes across not so much as a choice but as “an offer one can’t refuse.”
“The concern is whether the choice is going to be real in any sense of the word,” McPhail said, making it clear that this “isn’t an anti-vaccination concern.”
McPhail said it’s “not hard to think of ways such policies can go wrong in the short term.” She said that an immunity passport would undermine “meaningful consent” that is required for “voluntariness to be genuine.”
“But creating vaccine haves and have-nots doesn’t just discriminate against people who haven’t yet been vaccinated, it also has a coercive effect on the decision-making process they’ll have to engage in. Meaningful consent is required for voluntariness to be genuine, and coerced consent doesn’t meet that threshold,” she said.
Looking further down the road, McPhail warned of “worse problems” when an immunity passport health program would place citizens in one of two camps, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
“Then, we risk creating a dangerous social sorting, a categorization of human beings as safe vs unsafe, deserving vs undeserving, based on their personal decision about their health. We know what happens when we create social systems dividing people into categories—abuse, discrimination, and oppression,” she said.
McPhail called Elliott’s threat of restrictions for those who do not have proof of vaccination a “backhand slap” to freedom-loving Canadians.
“Insisting vaccination is voluntary and in the same breath linking that choice to the likely denial of full participation in public activities is a backhand slap in the face to anyone who might think the word voluntary equals a real choice,” she said.
McPhail concluded: “We’re being propelled towards a dangerous quagmire where rights, health priorities, common good, and individual autonomy are going to conflict, all butting up against the overwhelming desire to just make the pandemic and all of its accompanying restrictions go away. Let’s not step in it and sink over our heads. Canadians will be better served if the next statements we hear about proof of vaccination focus on respect for individual choices and maybe even incentives to encourage social responsibility rather than dire hints of social exclusion. We need to take some time to think through the complex legal, ethical, and moral issues that are raised and make sure that our cures are in fact, curative and not destructive of our body politic.”
Labels result in oppression and discrimination
Michael Bryant, CCLA’s executive director and general counsel, warned in a Dec. 9 piece published in the Toronto Star against the dangers of societal stratification as a result of immunity passports and of the historic oppression and discrimination that comes with publicly labelling “haves and have nots.” The piece was co-authored by CCLA’s Director of Fundamental Freedoms Cara Zwibel.
“There are good reasons to resist the urge to dole out quasi-immunity passports. To begin with, we do not know whether inoculation begets immunization. Even if we make the massive assumption that everyone who wants to be immunized can be immunized, there will also be exceptions for whom a particular vaccine may be against canonical medical advice. Those exceptions ought not be damned for their disability,” they wrote.
Bryant and Zwibel pointed out that public shaming and discrimination is already happening over COVID protocols.
“We have already seen the damaging stigma that has attached to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Those who have questioned some of the public health measures — and those who, for various reasons, are not able to comply — are also facing harsh criticism and marginalization,” they wrote.
“The small minority of people who cannot wear a mask, for example, have not only been denied services, but also vilified and demonized,” they continued.
“The pandemic has highlighted the haves and the have-nots in too many ways. Those most at-risk end up being those most likely to face real challenges in implementing the recommended public health measures. The historically disenfranchised also tend to suffer the consequences of institutional commandments or just plain bullying by the powerful,” they added.
Bryant and Zwibel concluded: “We should be searching neither for new ways to divide us, nor increased fear-mongering. We could instead drill down on how best to achieve public health goals while also respecting personal freedom and choice.”
‘Negative human rights consequences’
In a Dec. 12 letter to Justin Trudeau, the CCLA warned the Canadian Prime Minister that immunity passports were a “wrongheaded” and “bad idea” that would result in “negative human rights consequences.” The group outlined how immunity passports would infringe on Canadian rights in the areas of privacy, mobility, equality (disability/health), equality (discrimination on other equality grounds), and liberty (coercive).
The group’s warning about immunity passports being an infringement on liberty was especially hard-hitting.
“Policies that facilitate (or the absence of policies/laws that prohibit) vaccination status from becoming a key to full participation in public life run the risk of rendering a voluntary vaccination regime de facto mandatory, via diffuse coercive impacts. If proof of vaccination is required to enter businesses, ride public transit, go to the theatre or a sporting event (all options that have been floated by different elected officials), this will inevitably have a coercive effect on the decision-making process individuals must engage in when considering whether to be vaccinated. Meaningful consent is required for voluntariness to be genuine, and state-sanctioned, coerced consent does not meet that threshold.”
The CCLA concluded in its letter to Trudeau that there is a “need for strong federal leadership to ensure that residents across Canada can meaningfully exercise their right to make informed decisions about their health and make a voluntary decision to participate in the vaccination roll-out to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19.”
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