This past weekend a huge convoy of truckers and people arrived in Ottawa in order to protest against the vaccine mandate that the Canadian government has put in force on truckers. The convoy began with only a few truckers yet grew rapidly through a grassroots movement as tens of thousands (possibly more) rendezvoused in the nation’s capital. There has been many people posting their support as well as others giving criticism of what the convoy is trying to achieve. In these kinds of protest, it is normal that it would provoke citizens to take sides on the issue of the vaccine passport. That is one of the points of the protest in the first place, for up until that point most just assumed that a slim minority of people opposed such a measure. But, as the convoy crossed the beautiful and massive land of Canada, they gained momentum as thousands of supporters lined the highways with banners, posters, and flags to cheer the truckers on. As they progressed from province to province, from west to east, more and more trucks joined the group. This movement caused other truckers, from the Maritimes and Quebec, and even from the United States, to make their own convoy in order to join the protest in Ottawa. Whether one is for or against the issues being raised in the protest, it is hard to not be impressed with how fast and how huge this group became. It has even sparked truckers from around the globe to do similar protests in their countries.
One of the first things that should be done when analyzing and coming to conclusions on whether this type of manifestation is a right action is to look at the issues being raised and the arguments that support them. Far too often we react to demonstrations like this rather than listening to the arguments and pondering on the validity of them. We live in a culture that is quick to come to conclusions before having clear reasoning behind the ideas that we stand for and against. Social media has not helped us in this reactive mindset, for it just way too easy for us write a quick comment. We have lost the skill of listening and are quicker than ever to speak. I have been guilty of this too many times in years past, and is why, now, while I do share my thoughts are certain topics that I find important, I do my absolute best not to debate them on social media. For those that truly desire to have a conversation about certain subjects in a mutually benefiting ambiance, I prefer to do it while having a cup of coffee together or on having a simple phone call. It is just more profitable for all involved. I have just seen too much collateral damage that occurs when someone blasts another on Facebook or Twitter.
When we look at the protest that is still ongoing in Ottawa, it is crucial that we not only be willing to listen and understand the issues and arguments from both sides, but also to be willing to learn from those we disagree with. This is what I think has been missing in the whole Covid measures debate. The argument has mainly been only one-sided. We almost only hear arguments and opinions that in accord with the political party in charge. An example of this is our Prime Minister calling the trucker convoy “a fringe minority” with “unacceptable views”. While I respect Mr. Trudeau as the leader of Canada, I disagree with his closed-minded approach to addressing the trucker convoy protest. It is now clear that this no “fringe minority”, and he is not even willing to consider why a large number of his citizens are protesting. This kind of attitude is not democratic, nor does it bring solutions.
Now, some might be asking themselves why I am writing on this topic. Some might think that someone in my position should not speak out about issues like this, for it brings division. It is true that this topic is divisive. This is truly an unfortunate reality regardless of whether I say anything or not. But truth be told, pastors have positions on issues like this as well, and there are appropriate times to express them. My goal is not divisive. My goals are to hopefully bring a little clarity to the anti-passport movement, to call us to conversation where listening and dialogue can occur, and to give common sense arguments for why my particular position on the vaccine passport should be considered as valid rather than thrown out without consideration and called “unacceptable”.
I support the protest that the convoy organized over this past weekend, not because I agree with everything that each individual trucker has said or done, nor do I agree with all the actions done by certain people, but because of the emphasis on the protest against the vaccine passport. It is sad that some in the convoy chose to disrespect historical and important Canadian monuments there in Ottawa. Obviously, I do not agree with that kind of behavior. But the unfortunate thing is that these kinds of actions and attitudes do not even close represent the majority. It is what some of the media have shown, but that does not give a clear picture of what happened over the weekend, what is happening now, nor why the protest was organized in the first place. I realize that news reporters are often looking for the story within the story so they can get their piece on television, but that quest often leads to skewed reporting. But, as it shows, not all in the trucker convoy are protesting well. When you get that many people together for an event, unfortunately you will get people who do foolish things. It also made me cringe when I saw banners and t-shirts that profaned our PM’s name. Those things are just uncalled for and do not help the cause. They ignore the arguments that are trying to be protested and simply seek to attack a person’s character. Yet, while I disagree with those actions and attitudes, I do know that they were by and far the minority. How do I know? I was not there, but I know several people that went. I saw numerous live feeds. And all I heard and witnessed was an overwhelming peaceful protest against vaccine passport mandates. And this is the issue that I believe is crucial and needs to be highlighted.
I want to make sure that I am clear on something: I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-vaccine passport. There is a huge difference. I personally know many people that are vaccinated yet oppose the passport. Those who are against the vaccine passport are not conspiracists, at least the vast majority are not. I know many (both vaccinated and unvaccinated) who are against the vaccine passport. I can only count five people I know that I would consider to be conspiracists. Personally, considering the last two years, I think the government has done a good job on making the vaccine available to those that believe they should and need to take it. But the question remains, should they seek to force the population to get a vaccine injected into their own personal body when many do not desire to do so? I would say absolutely not, and here are some logical reasons to why.
First, the Covid numbers that are being reported are not accurate in telling the whole story. The Quebec Public Health (Dr. Arruda) came out about a month before the writing of this article and admitted that this is true. For proof of this see the video in the footnote below. Dr. Arruda said that 30-40% of those in the hospitals are not there because of Covid, rather for other reasons. That means that these people did not know that had the Covid virus but were tested once they entered the hospital due to the protocol. That is a massive percentage of the number of people listed in the hospital for Covid that the Quebec Health puts out daily. This makes a huge difference in the real impact the virus is having on our hospitals. The problem is that many, if not most, do not know this and think the numbers we see everyday indicate those that are suffering due to Covid.
I have first-hand testimony of a security agent that works in one of the local hospitals that said throughout her day, she often has to inform people that they have Covid because they have no idea because they do not have any symptoms. Every patient reacts to the news in the same manner. They are shocked. They have no idea. The reason: they are at the hospital for another reason.
I also have a testimony of an EMT, when asked if he often takes people to the hospital due to complications with Covid, he laughed. He said that most of the people they bring to the hospital by ambulance for reasons due to Covid are those that discovered they had tested positive and began to have a panic attack. They were not having trouble breathing. They simply were panicking at the idea that they have the virus. This is a signpost that should indicate more clearly of how this whole situation has affected people mentally and emotionally, not only physically. The mental health impact of the virus is a massive cornerstone argument to not only getting rid of the passport, but other health measures as well in order to help people suffering with this severe health issue.
Please do not get me wrong. It is abundantly clear that this virus does in fact physically affect certain people severely, especially those with pre-condition health concerns and/or weaknesses, as well as the elderly. Also, unvaccinated people who get Covid do, on average, have symptoms that are more severe and have a higher risk of hospitalization than vaccinated. Yet we must be very careful to look at the numbers soberly and honestly. The overwhelming majority of unvaccinated people who contract the virus have no or very mild symptoms and never see the inside of a hospital. There are about 8.5 million people in the province of Quebec and even if there were 5000 people in the hospital due to Covid, that would equal to 0.059% of the population. Our numbers have not even come close to 5000, and when you consider 30-40% who are in the hospital for other reasons than having the virus, that percentage plummets even further.
Second, vaccine effectiveness diminishes quickly after only a few months. This is why there is now a government push, after only one year into the vaccine campaign, for people to get a third dose. Vaccinated people only have real benefits for a short period of time. If we continue at this rate, we are looking at 2-3 booster shots a year. Therefore, even with a 100% vaccination rate, Covid cases will not be eliminated by the current vaccines that are available because they simply are not able to stop infection. This fact alone nullifies the nature of the vaccine passport as it creates an administration nightmare as well as a frustrated population whose passport is continually expiring due to needed boosters. Last summer, the Quebec health department declared that a person who had received two shots was considered adequately vaccinated. Now, only six months later, barely out of the campaign for the second shot, they are saying that double vaccinated people will lose their status as adequately vaccinated and their QR code will soon no longer work to eat at restaurants, go to the movies, watch sporting events, etc. if they do not get a third shot. This is a cycle that does not seem will ever end. The next shot will probably never be the last one.
Third, adequately vaccinated people can and do still get the Covid virus and are still at risk of being hospitalized because of it. At least for the moment, the risk is lower. But, not to the point where a vaccine passport makes logical sense. The longer we progress in the vaccination campaign, the less it seems that the vaccine protects against being hospitalized. For example, in December, an unvaccinated person had a 15 times greater risk of being hospitalized than a vaccinated person (even though that percentage was still extremely small). Today, at the writing of this article, that number has dropped to 5.8 times greater (Santé Québec). As the virus mutates that number will change, either up or down. But it is clear that the effectiveness that the vaccine had on the delta variant does not seem to have near the effectiveness on the new omicron variant. Not only that, there’s little evidence, at least as of now, that the third shot will be effective either.
Fourth, the unvaccinated are not the reason that we have not been able to get out of the current Covid era. Quebec has one of highest vaccination rates in the world and some of the most severe restrictions in the world and we are not any better off than other places that have little to no restrictions. If the vaccines were the “light at the end of the tunnel” then we would have already been on the other side. The government and media can blame unvaccinated people all they want for us still lingering in Covid chaos, but when you look at the vaccination statistics it shouts a different story. Therefore, enforcing a passport will never bring normality even close to what it was in the pre-Covid age. It is not the magical tool that will deliver us from this masked horror. There is no evidence that the passport has helped diminish infection, hospitalizations, or deaths. Therefore, the freedoms that have been taken away from citizens due to their vaccination status cannot be honestly verified as an effective means of preventing infection.
Fifth, unvaccinated teenagers can spend all day in a classroom with other students, participate in physical education class with other students, yet for extracurricular activities they are deemed a health danger for not being vaccinated, thus are not allowed to participate in sports and other activities. I am not sure if this point needs much explaining to make sense, but just in case it is not obvious I will try to emphasis the major point. Students (of all vaccinated status – 3D,2D,1D,UV,+) are lumped together all day in a classroom, participate in physical education class where they exert themselves in team sports, and this is fine. Yet, playing on the school sports team or having a role in the school drama play is strictly out of the question for the unvaccinated. This is clearly not a health-related decision, but a way to place pressure on the teenage population to do what the government wants them to do. This application of the passport is clearly out of bounds. It is discriminatory and is ostracizes teens in a crucial time in their life where acceptance and inclusion are vital to their mental, emotional, and ethical formation.
Sixth, the vaccine passport causes unvaccinated people to be treated as second class citizens. In his own words, Justin Trudeau, the leader whose message has often been about acceptance and tolerance, called the tens of thousands who gathered in Ottawa over this past weekend as well as the multitude across this great nation who stand with them on this issue of the vaccine passport, “a fringe minority” with “unacceptable views”. In other words, he has declared that the only views worth being accepted are the ones he agrees with. There is only one big and illuminating problem with that statement. It is not democracy. And we live in a democratic nation. When a group and its supporters are much larger than a fringe group, it is undemocratic to refuse to listen to them. With his own words, the PM basically declared to all who support some or all of this past weekend’s protest, that they are really not worthy to be called Canadian. And that is about the most unCanadian thing a person can say.
Here in Quebec, due to new Covid restrictions rolled out in December, I, as a pastor of a church, am required to enforce the vaccine passport for those who desire to attend our worship gatherings. In other words, unvaccinated people are now not to be allowed to participate in worship. This goes completely contrary to the message of Jesus and the biblical mandate for the church, not to mention the charter of rights and freedoms. The government should not have the right to decide who can and cannot attend a church worship gathering. And like the decision with teenage students and sports, it has nothing to do with health, rather it is about placing pressure on another group of people in order to get a higher vaccination percentage. This mandate is clearly not a quest about health, but one of prestige, wanting to be one of the most vaccinated populations on the planet. This appears to be his ultimate goal, not health. Our PM has even mentioned this several times in his press conferences.
As a pastor of a Bible-believing church, I find the demand to require vaccine passports in church unacceptable. We have done our best (though not perfectly) to uphold the health sanitary obligations. We wear masks, wash hands, etc., yet for me, with the passport demand, the government has crossed a line in places of worship that they have no right to trespass. Churches in the province are trying to do their best to hold in tension what God’s word says about submitting to the government (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2) and not showing favoritism/partiality in the church, (Acts 10, James 2). Both are commands God has given to the church. Yet, in this situation, both cannot be applied equality. Regardless how well planned out a church seeks to require its members and regular attenders to show valid proof of vaccination status, to enforce the vaccine passport is to create a division in the church. Should one group of people in the church be treated more special than another? Of course not. Should the church be divided by this kind of standard? Biblically, no. So, what am I to do? For me, it has been an easy decision. And I have been praying for other pastors and church leaders here in Quebec, because I know for many, it has not been an easy one to make. For a good article on churches and vaccine passports, I have placed the link in the footnotes.
Seventh, once the people surrender certain powers to the government, it rarely is returned. Power is hard to give up once it has been received. Whether some will admit it or not, this is a truth that has repeated itself in history. The vaccine passport allows the government to decide who can eat at restaurants, go to the movies, play sports, attend concerts and events, and go to church. While many do not see this as a big deal, what they do not realize is that if the government continues to enforce this vaccine passport, the line will continue to move toward more and more control over the people. Even though history shows this to be an unfortunate pattern, it does not necessarily mean that this is 100% true for our future regrading the mandates. We just do not want to become like a frog slowly boiling in water, yet unaware.
While those are seven arguments that I have made for why I am against the vaccine passport, I think it is good that I address a few of the arguments that I have heard from the other side of the issue. These are arguments that have come from nice, loving, and thoughtful people. They disagree with me on this, and that is okay, as long as we both are willing to consider the other’s points. Here are a few arguments that I find weak and do not hold weight in the vaccine passport issue.
Weak argument #1 – The organizers of the trucker convoy have questionable moral stances on other issues.
Honestly, I have not looked up the background of the organizers of the event. Maybe I should have. But my support of this protest is not directed at the organizers themselves, rather it is directly linked to the main issue that the protest is voicing, the vaccine passport. While character is vital to all of us, much of the media coverage has shifted from the real subject of debate and sought to create a new one. While I wish that the organizers were considered to be upstanding moral people, their stances on other issues, while maybe shady or even immoral, should not cloud out the main reason for the convoy, protesting the vaccine passport. The reason I find this a bad argument is that we all have dirt hidden under the rugs in our lives. If we look hard enough, we will find it. Look at Trudeau’s past with the blackface incident. It is embarrassing to his character. Yet, he is the PM. We are flawed people, me included. Yet, you and I can stand for right things as well.
Weak argument #2 – Vaccine passport (QR code) is like a driver’s license. There is no difference.
My rebuttal will be short here. Never before in the history of my life have I had to show a driver’s license to eat at restaurant or attend a sporting event. So, no, it is not like a driver’s license. This is really not a good argument.
Weak argument #3 – Vaccine passports are not the biggest issue. We should be supporting health care workers.
I totally agree that we should support health care workers. They have not had it easy over the past two years. The Covid protocols that have been placed on them has made their job extremely hard. So, a huge YES! We need to support the health care workers. If people decided to create a convoy in support of the health care workers, I would support it. Yet just because that is a big issue in itself does not diminish nor negate a protest against the vaccine passport. It does not have to be an either/or rather it should be a both/and issue.
The reason this argument is weak is that it seeks to use an outside argument to discredit the vaccine argument. If one wants to discredit the passport argument, then they need to use facts and arguments that are directly linked to the passport argument. But these are two separate issues, for there is no proof that taking away the vaccine passport will result in a lack of support for health care workers. The passport has not produced less stress on the health system here in Quebec, therefore it is not a valid objection.
Weak argument #4 – Some say that the trucker convoy wants freedom at the expense of health.
That is not a good argument, for it cannot stand on at least two accounts. First, practically everyone (at least for what I have seen) has made many efforts for two long years to follow the health guidelines the best they could, including washing hands, wearing masks, etc. Just because someone does not agree with a health measure, does not mean that they are against all of them, nor does it mean that they are not practicing some of them.
Example: I do not agree with all the health measures that are in place here in Quebec. Yet, I seek to follow them the best I can without being rigid or legalistic about it.
Second, in speaking with many who think the vaccine passport is a good idea, I have not spoken with one who said they were favor of it because they thought it protects the health of the population. Every single one said they were for it because they either wanted to feel rewarded for getting vaccinated, or they wanted the freedom to go and do what they wanted. In other words, all the testimonies I have heard so far have been about freedom, yet from a different angle. So, one cannot claim the truckers are the only ones seeking freedom. That argument simply seeks to hide its true agenda. We all want freedom, and we all want to be healthy. The question remains, is enforcing the passports the best road to get there? I truly believe it is a clear no.
So, those are my arguments for why I am against the vaccine passport and why I believe it should be abolished ASAP. I invite you to consider these arguments with an open mind. I have tried to do the same. You may not like the personalities of the truckers. But do not let that be the reason for you to not listen to their ideas and arguments. If you reject their arguments, may it because you have truly pondered, reflected, and conversed about the issues being raised, and not because you do not like their approach, boldness, or background. We must learn once again to be a people to think clearly before taking position. This ethical and moral issue cannot and should not be made on emotions. It must be made with logical, well-thought through ideas. Yet, I believe it is okay, that once that has been done well, we can and should express it with our emotions.
This is not a perfect post, and I do not claim to have all the answers, yet I believe that the arguments I have made do make sense and should be considered as valid rather than “unacceptable”. Not all my arguments are fully developed, nor are they leak-proof. Yet, I do think they hold enough water to demonstrate that, besides the government seeking to impose certain controls on the population, there are not enough valid reasons that support the mandate, and it should be eliminated. I am against the vaccine passport. Yet, I am committed to show respect, love and to serve all people, whether they agree with me or not. Roll on 18-wheeler. Roll on.