Vaccine Passports and Dramatic Government Overreach
Canada has announced plans to introduce vaccine passports for foreign travellers this fall. While some provinces are calling for a national vaccine passport, many provinces already have plans on it. Quebec decided to implement a vaccine passport for Quebecers; Manitoba said it will issue proof-of-vaccination cards to residents; Nova Scotia promised a “ScotiaPass” for residents and that organizations can use to control access to their businesses.
I feel it is necessary, as the Green Party of Canada’s MP Candidate for Markham-Thornhill, to make my views on the matter clear. I have several objections to the implementation, both in terms of how the government has communicated it to the public and in terms of how it is to be implemented. I feel the government is overstepping its bounds considerably by taking this course of action, and I am concerned about the results.
Ambiguity in Government Messaging
First of all, the federal government should make it clear whether Canada, as a free country, would implement vaccine passports or not, instead of “leaving that up to the provinces.” Vague statements like this have been frustratingly common over the course of the pandemic, and they benefit no one but the policymakers. While I am appreciative of Trudeau’s intention to work with the provincial governments rather than dictate terms, I do come away from this whole exchange feeling like the Prime Minister is passing on the burden of implementation to the premiers and shielding his administration from criticism should problems arise.
Punishing the Unvaccinated, Regardless of Circumstance
Secondly, I worry about the precedent set by a vaccine passport. While it may seem extremely sensible to create a document tracking vaccination status, consider what that would mean in practice. Consider the affected parties. Depending on implementation, a vaccine passport could deny access to restaurants, public travel and public spaces to perfectly healthy people who have, in all other respects, practised excellent social distancing, mask usage and other tactics of COVID avoidance. Some of these people may have valid concerns for not seeking out the vaccine, reasons that don’t simply boil down to anti-vaccination propaganda. This would matter very little in the face of a system that would deny them access to a grocery store based on their vaccination status.
That’s really the thrust of my complaint. The vaccine passport is, by its nature, highly coercive. It is not our government’s job to force people to get vaccinated if they want access to certain services. To echo the Green Party of Canada’s viewpoint, “There are whole communities of people in Canada with historical experiences of very painful and damaging interactions with the healthcare system, many of whom are still dealing with the legacies of that trauma. These are legitimate concerns, and we need to see a plan to address them that is focused on education and that explains why getting vaccinated is important and how it will help to protect them, their communities and the general public. Our government’s job should be to make the vaccine available and well-understood by the public, and to make accommodations for those who, in good faith, can’t or won’t take the vaccine.
What I propose in its place is little more than an elaboration of the social contracts that already exist. Businesses refuse service to those who do not wear masks and properly socially distance, and individuals encourage their friends and neighbours to get vaccinated. That should be the way to go; leave the decision to the businesses and the people, and with proper education and vaccine availability, we could achieve vaccination targets in a humanitarian way.
Lastly, I want to end this post with the Green Party of Canada’s phase: “This is a public health matter, and it is wrong that it is being politicized. Big public policy issues must be approached in a careful, thoughtful and considered manner.”