As parts of the world begin to turn the corner with COVID-19, the discussion related to mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passports has started to intensify.
A vaccine passport is a document that confirms an individual’s full immunization against COVID-19. It will contain a proper record of the COVID-19 vaccine doses that a person received and may include proof that they’ve tested negative for the coronavirus.
Several organizations, including governments and airlines, are working on a digital vaccine app that can be stored on a mobile phone and/or digital wallet. Individuals who don’t use digital technology such as smartphones – and there are some – will likely be able to present a paper copy for authorization.
Nearly 50 countries have instituted some type of mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passport. This includes France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Israel, Lebanon, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, China and the Bahamas.
What does Canada plan to do?
The provinces are mostly opposed to this concept. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, for instance, won’t introduce a vaccine passport. B.C. isn’t supportive of the idea. Quebec will institute a vaccine passport in September, but only in communities and non-essential sectors that have experienced outbreaks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a different tact.
Trudeau wants to implement an international vaccine passport. “Leaked presentations reveal that Canada won’t have a national COVID-19 vaccine passport system until December 2021, at the earliest,” according to a July 23 piece in Politico. “A total lack of national infrastructure, however, means that could be delayed even further.”
Nevertheless, the PM will let the provincial governments take care of the domestic side.
Could there be several different vaccine passports floating around our country?
It’s possible, and that will only make things more confusing for Canadians.
Although I’m fully vaccinated, I don’t support the introduction of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passport in Canada.
We live in a free and democratic society. Our liberties and freedoms are constitutionally protected, albeit imperfectly in the Great White North. This includes freedom of choice. If someone doesn’t want to take any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines for rational or irrational reasons, they have that right.
I may not agree with their decision. You may not agree with their decision. Regardless, we can’t force people in a free society to get vaccinated if they don’t wish to.
There are examples of near-mandatory vaccination in Canada. Most school-aged children in Ontario, for instance, can’t attend a public or private institution if their vaccinations aren’t up to date. There have been a few instances of valid exemptions but not many.
At the same time, the health and safety of younger people who are still developing and don’t have the ability or awareness to make crucial decisions about infectious diseases have always been on a different playing field. Adults who have only been partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all tend to understand this distinction.
The role of government in a democracy isn’t to create permanent barriers or separate tiers for people who freely choose to do something different. A domestic and/or international COVID-19 vaccine passport is an unwise idea.
This doesn’t restrict the private sector from making its own set of rules about COVID-19 vaccination.
If private individuals and companies choose to limit, restrict or keep out an individual who isn’t fully vaccinated, that’s their decision. The same principle applies to several gyms in Canada that have recently decided not to welcome patrons who are fully vaccinated.
That’s the power of the free market. Establish a business, create your parameters and determine where your best sources of income – or most desired sources of income – come from. Patrons then have the choice to follow the rules of a private establishment or find private establishments that are in sympathy with their mindset and lifestyle.
Will there be legal and human rights challenges against organizations that take one position or another when it comes to COVID-19 and vaccination?
I’d rather see those challenges go forward in a democratic society when private enterprise has full control of the bat and ball, and discussions of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passport are taken off the table.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.
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