A crowd rallying against the Covid-19 vaccination blocked the streets outside a Vancouver hospital this week, haranguing and, in one case, aggression healthcare workers, slowing ambulances, delaying the entry of patients for treatment and disturbing those who are recovering inside.
Kennedy Stewart, the city’s mayor, was among many to quickly condemn its members.
“When I see people blocking healthcare workers who are working hard to save people dying from Covid, it makes me sick.” he wrote on Twitter.
While polls show Canadians opposed to vaccines to be a decided minority, the Vancouver protest was not an isolated event. In British Columbia, protesters were out in Kamloops, Victoria, Kelowna, Prince George and Nanaimo. A downtown Toronto hospital area saw a similar outbreak filled with rabies, and an anti-vaccine group made their way into downtown Montreal.
All of this, of course, followed the angry and often secular protests that followed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the federal election campaign, forcing an event to be canceled for security reasons. It was not just Mr. Trudeau or the Liberals who were targeted. Vaccine protesters have come forward twice at Stephen Lecce, the Minister of Education for the Progressive Conservative Government of Ontario. When the protesters learned that Mr. Lecce was not at home, they heckled his neighbors.
Coincidence or not, public anti-vaccine rabies emerged over the course of a week that resulted in developments in some provinces requiring proof of vaccination for entry into certain public places. Vaccine-verification system in Quebec, which includes a phone app, went into effect on Wednesday. And in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford has backed off his long-standing resistance to vaccine passports and announced a program that will be fully implemented by the end of October.
Ford’s announcement means Ontario is now joining British Columbia and Manitoba in addition to Quebec by requiring proof of vaccination for certain activities. (Saskatchewan is working on a vaccination passport, but it has not made vaccinations mandatory for any activity or job.)
There are important differences between the provinces. For example, the Quebec list of places that require vaccination are longer and stricter than Ontario’s when it starts later this month. Eating in a restaurant in Quebec will require vaccination whether indoors or on an outdoor terrace. Ontario’s measure will only apply indoors, raising questions about how patio diners will use washrooms or, in many places, even enter outdoor dining areas.
The reaction of companies is mixed. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce last month called for clear rules on compulsory vaccination governments and vaccine passports. But some individual business owners, especially those with restaurants, have expressed concerns about checking their customers and enforcing the rules.
No province has a general compulsory vaccination policy. But vaccination passports and vaccination warrants from employers or governments have raised privacy and human rights concerns.
I asked Errol Mendes, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa who specializes in human rights, if the mandatory vaccinations were likely to be canceled by a court.
He said a person fired for refusing vaccination under a vaccination mandate issued by an employer could file a complaint under provincial human rights codes. Likewise, unions could argue that the layoffs violate their collective agreements. In the case of government-mandated vaccines, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would come into play.
“But it is not certain that either of these legal challenges would necessarily succeed,” Professor Mendes said.
It is much more likely, he said, that such a case would follow the pattern set by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland when a provincial travel ban was challenged. She found that the ban did violate part of the charter but was nonetheless legal because it was a reasonable restriction in the context of the pandemic.
Before calling the election, Trudeau said the government would require vaccines for its public servants, employees in federally regulated industries and passengers on trains, planes and cruise ships. Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party, made a similar proposal and even set Monday as the deadline. Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader, is not in favor of mandatory vaccinations.
As was the case in British Columbia and Quebec, Ontario’s announcement regarding proof of vaccination was immediately followed by an increase in vaccination reservations.
As for the anti-vaccine protesters, there is no immediate sign that they will take the Vancouver mayor’s advice and stay at home. But they are probably not who they claim to be. The Ontario Hospital Association said that, contrary to claims by protesters in Toronto, it believes “the majority of those attending these rallies were not healthcare workers.”
Understanding the mandates of vaccines and masks in the United States
- Vaccination rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 years of age and older, paving the way for increased tenure in the public and private sectors. Private companies increasingly require vaccines for their employees. Such mandates are legally authorized and have been confirmed in legal challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of immunization status, wear masks in indoor public places in areas affected by epidemics, a reversal of guidelines it offered in May. . See where the CDC guidelines would apply and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle for masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. California and New York City have both introduced vaccination mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-aged children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more in favor of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff who don’t. don’t have their vaccines.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and large healthcare systems are requiring their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, citing an increase in the number of cases fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their hand -work.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required from workers and customers for indoor meals, gyms, shows, and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until September 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by September 27, with no possibility of weekly testing. Employees of the city’s hospitals must also get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon has said it will seek to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty soldiers “no later than” mid-September. President Biden announced that all federal civilian employees should be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
He has also made it clear that their protests are not welcome.
“By denying the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines, they have also inflicted moral damage on healthcare workers who work tirelessly on the front lines to care for sick and dying patients from this dangerous virus,” the group said. “It’s a bitter irony that if any of these anti-vaccine protesters get sick or seriously ill from Covid, it will be the hospitals and frontline workers they will turn to for treatment. “
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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