Should Canadians be free to fly without a COVID-19 vaccination?
Four Canadian pilots thought so and founded Free to Fly at the end of August. By now, the organization has attracted more than 38,500 members, including 2,800 airline staff.
In an interview, Free to Fly co-founder Derek Grigor said the time was ripe for their message.
“We’re uniting a lot of people that are scared to speak out, want to speak out, don’t know where to turn,” Grigor said.
“A lot of them don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to be the only one out there and then look all naked if things go sideways. So they’re just kind of sitting back and then they are waiting to see if someone else speaks out. And if they do speak out, then all of a sudden, oh, they join up with you, and they’re like, ‘I’m so glad I’m not the only one.’”
On Aug. 13, the federal government announced that those travelling by air had to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 31 or face termination. Air Canada subsequently demanded that its staff be fully vaccinated by Oct. 30, and Grigor says workers in other airlines fear they’re next.
“They’re basically telling them that if you don’t get your vaccine, you’re fired. So how’s that part of rights and freedoms? You don’t follow them and toe the line, you’re done after 25, 30 years? It’s just absolutely outrageous,” Grigor said.
Free to Fly has “expanded to every airline in the country. [We] put our colours of tails aside and we’re fighting the same fight.”
Grigor said he knew the tide was turning after an informal Telegram poll of pilots in one airline found 40 per cent believed COVID-19 vaccination should not be a condition of employment.
“We’re getting more people that have been vaccinated, and they’re going, ‘Hey, you know what? This is starting to scare me now, what they’re doing. And so now I’m with you on medical freedom and medical privacy,’” Grigor said.
“They’re starting to rethink their belief system and what’s going on here. Some are absolutely – you’re not going to change their mind. But [others say], ‘Even though I do get vaccinated, hey, you know what? This is really overstepping their bounds.’”
The mission statement of Free to Fly is “To unite people through one of the most cherished freedoms of modern civilization – the freedom to travel great distances safely, quickly, and in comfort.” The free2fly.info website includes a 12-point platform and links to Liberty Coalition Canada, Canadian Frontline Nurses, Canadian Covid Care Alliance and Freedom In Action.
A second co-founding pilot spoke on condition his name be withheld for professional reasons. In an interview, he said Free to Fly is not just about airline staff, but passengers and all Canadians.
“I get calls also from people that don’t have a voice – special needs people, autistic people. They’re right out; they cannot take this vaccine; it’s gonna cause them an immense health problem. So we’re okay with kicking a small minority to the curb that will never be able to fly again? I’m not okay with that,” said the pilot.
“Autonomy is probably one of the highest aspirations of life [especially in] the context of one’s health. So we need to let the individual decide. … When the government gets in your bedroom and everything else in your life, those decisions aren’t the greatest.”
The pilot, who says he flies for one of the three largest Canadian airlines, believes some in elected office “who should know better” are complacent and ill-informed.
“The public as a whole has this idea that those positions of authority government wise, their finger is on the pulse, they know what’s going on. Once you get to that top echelon, you understand how absolutely untrue that is,” he said.
The pilot spent a half hour speaking to his local MP, a cabinet minister, regarding concerns about giving teenagers COVID vaccinations, only to get what he called a “very frustrating” response.
“[He said,] ‘At the end of the day, we got to trust the people in charge … I just don’t have time to read this stuff.’ And I don’t buy that because you have got paid employees who can research this stuff for you, right?”
The pilot believes vaccine passports contradict the Nuremberg Code made in response to Nazi atrocities in the Second World War.
“We’re almost reliving history again. So, it’s just absolutely crazy what’s going on out there, and a lot of us are fed up,” he said.
Grigor fears Canada could be headed for a social credit system like China’s.
“You speak out and guess what? … You can’t fly or you don’t have your digital passport. You can’t go buy food; you can’t go here. Oh, your bank account is [frozen]. This is where it’s going.”
Lee Harding is a research associate for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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