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I am deeply troubled by those in our Christian community who are or have supported the Canadian Trucker Convoy and the resulting street camping in Ottawa and at various border crossings with the United States.
Coming from a Neo-Calvinist worldview, I doubt that I have any significant differences with supporters of the truckers on basic principles such as governments have a role for the good of all, there are legitimate ways and reasons for protest, laws can be unjust, governments are entitled to use force to maintain order and governments can become illegitimate — during World War II, my father was a member of Knokploeg, the Dutch resistance organization that sabotaged the German occupiers. He spent six months in concentration camps for his form of protest.
I differ on facts. The supporters of the truckers are factually incorrect. They need a reality check.
I hold that vaccine and related mandates have been necessary and are an appropriate attempt to manage through the unusual circumstances of the past two years. I expect further vaccine related mandates to be necessary government and private sector policy in some form for quite some time to manage the ongoing pandemic or as precautionary initiatives to forestall the arrival of another spike in the pandemic.
First, the vaccine mandates are of the same form and character as buckle-up mandates. Some 45 years ago we had the same kind of resistance to Ontario’s introduction of a seatbelt law. The arguments about impact on individual choice and freedom of the person were identical. The supporting science is similar. Both mandates significantly save lives and reduce the severity of injury/disease but both in some circumstances cause additional or different trauma. If vaccine mandates are unjust then buckle-up mandates are unjust.
Second, I have no quarrel with calling the vaccine mandates a constraint on freedom, but it is one I gladly accept as one who has tried to live life by the Golden Rule: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. This is about a few jabs in the arm. Anyone who believes in service for the common good, can do this with just a little thoughtfulness for one’s fellow citizens.
Third, the truckers have made a mountain out of a molehill. Truckers shut down a significant part of the core of Ottawa. They have thrown right-on-time-delivery for the auto sector into turmoil for a week. For what? A totally lopsided trade-off — rejecting a few jabs in the arm. Their demands are not supported by almost 90% of truckers. Rupturing trade with the US and hijacking the lives of many in Ottawa is a much greater encroachment on freedom than the vaccine mandates.
Fourth, I accept that the science advice used to develop the various public health measures of the past two years is lackluster. From the start in March of 2020, my view of this virus has been that it spreads primarily by aerosol — meaning, in enclosed spaces it makes very little difference if one is physically distanced. I’ve been heard to compare the virus’ contagiousness to my father walking into a room puffing on his usual cigarette and within minutes everyone, no matter where located, is smelling the cigarette and inhaling the smoke. If you stay in a room with a contagious person long enough, you will get an infectious dose.
Masks help if they are of good quality, but best is great ventilation in that room. Public health measures on improved ventilation are way overdue. One of the safest places to be during this pandemic – beside staying home alone – is in an airplane cabin. There the fresh air exchange rate is between 10 and 15 times per hour. With filtration it is between 20 and 30 times per hour (I don’t know if they use HEPA filtration). This level of fresh air exchange basically guarantees no buildup of COVIC-19 aerosols and thus an infectious dose is not possible.
As an aside, you might ask, Why do airplanes have such high fresh air exchange rates? So many folks breathing in a small space for hours produces a lot of cardon dioxide = carbon dioxide poisoning. Airplane cabins, in general, have higher fresh air/filtration exchange rates than hospital operating rooms.
Fifth, to appreciate the vaccine’s effectiveness, one doesn’t need science anymore. It’s working for the 90% of us in Ontario, Canada, who are vaccinated. Just check out who is not in hospital or who is not in ICU.
Sixth – here I rely on my 38 years in an advisory capacity in the farm community – the Omicron variant is fading as fast as it swelled but this is no guarantee that COVID-19 is just about done with us.
Farmers have had a lot more experience with epidemics than the rest of us. Consider, in the past 20 years our farm community has dealt with dozens of disease outbreaks: avian influenza (corona virus – 2004-2006, 2007, 2009-2010, 2014-16), bovine spongiform encephalopathy BSE (prion – 2003, 2007-2011, 2015) and porcine epidemic diarrhea PED (virus – 2014-2022), to name a few. Invariably the farm community has tried to crush these outbreaks.
We have an option in the livestock health toolbox that is not available in public health measures – depopulation. Even with this dramatic tool, there are no assumptions in the farm community that any of the above-mentioned epidemics or the dozen I have not mentioned are completely crushed. As a result, many livestock barns have precautionary biosecurity protocols in place that rival those in hospitals.
I’ll just mention one of those recommended pre-cautionary protocols for PED: “Ensure all visitors and barn staff use a secure system for movement in and out of the barn. Have designated boots and coveralls at each barn site and provide a hand cleaning station (wash or hand sanitizer).”
Now compare that to our response to COVID-19. No agenda to crush it! For two years it has always and only been “flatten the curve.” If crushing viruses in farming still requires extensive and ongoing precautionary biosecurity measures, what preventive measures should we expect in public health when we have merely flattened the curve?
The coronavirus is likely to reinvent itself and send us scrambling for boosters. Our health/science/political leaders will need to “keep their powder dry” and maintain readiness for the next installment of COVID-19.
Knowing what COVID-19 does to our seniors – both health and quality of life – I expect to support precautionary measures/mandates into the future. At the top of my list are vaccine mandates for those in essential services. Not far behind should be a plan for improving the fresh air exchange rate of all indoor settings where we gather in numbers. I, for one, will wait for patios before I return to restaurants. And I expect that our private sector is astute enough to adopt significant precautionary initiatives that will help flatten the curve of the next COVID-19 variants — without mandates. But, if not, I’ll support mandates.
My barber is already on that page – he has reverted to a one-chair business with a HEPA air purifier running and N95 mask mandatory. I expect labour unions will want to negotiate much improved fresh air exchange rates for enclosed workspaces in future contract negotiations. Dine-in restaurants will want to post certified fresh air exchange rates on their windows in order to be welcoming to seniors.
I can’t call the trucker initiated protest the “Freedom Convoy” — as it has destroyed more freedom than its proposals can gain. I don’t want freedom as they define it – freedom from mandates. I want freedom from the pandemic. The vaccine mandates are necessary tools towards that freedom.
The Trucker Convoy with its confetti of demands has put Canada on a detour from a safer health future as it consumes everyone’s time and money – robbed from planning the precautions that will be necessary for that safer future. I, as a Christian, find the vaccine mandates necessary and therefore just. Similarly, getting Ottawa back to normal obviously required additional powers to clear the street camping and thus is not an overreach in a democracy.
What we do need is a Truck Convoy with signs that read, “Increase National ICU Capacity,” “Improve the Fresh Air Exchange Rate in Senior Care Homes,” “Pay Essential Workers Like We Really Believe They Are Essential,” “Pay Personal Support Workers a Living Wage.” Let’s call it the Good Samaritan Truck Convoy.
The early 2022 convoy and street camping were self-centered. They reminded me of the priest and the Levite who scooted over to the other side of the road so they wouldn’t be expected to give up a mite for their neighbour.
I agree with all of this. Thank you.
The “freedom” convoy appears to be less about actual truckers than about the right-wing’s obsession with creating chaos.
As a result of actions like this, whenever read or hear the word “freedom,” I simply insert the word “selfishness” in its place. It’s regrettable that among many Christians, the second great commandment seems to have been diminished if not nullified.
Elbert, you put it well!
Now, it’s our turn to listen.
Amen and Amen.
Thank you Elbert! You have provided information that many of us have been searching for.
So very grateful. Would that those who claim freedom would instead learn moral discernment. Here’s to wonderfully loving times with your new old home!
The article and subsequent comments saddens me to the core. I guess personal
freedom and choose is no longer
Abel and I totally agree with you, Elbert.
Covid-19 is endemic now. Just like flu strains. In countries that tried to make it nonexistent (see Australia), a draconian police state was required. The policy still failed and will fail. Australia is now pushing for tourists to return. There is now a strain or sub-strain that is potentially less lethal but also more evasive to vaccines. We do not shut down or mandate or overturn economic and civil rights for the flu virus. The flu virus comes in different strains, each and every year. It, too, can impact seniors more so then younger people. It, too, has widely available vaccines which are not mandated but generally encouraged by government and businesses alike. Seniors should take the necessary precautions and assume the risks they desire.
There is nothing selfish about making health choices, based on a rational and reasoned investigation, for one’s own body and family. That is part of being in a free society. By this paternalistic logic, espoused here, all smoking should be banned. Immediately. Even marijuana smoking. Even smoking on private property. Any exposure to smoke is potentially harmful to the lungs and heart systems. This is proven science. Would you want to live in such a police state? Would the risk of not inhaling smoke anywhere at any time be worth the pain and suffering inflicted on citizens living in a police state?
“Both mandates significantly save lives and reduce the severity of injury/disease but both in some circumstances cause additional or different trauma. If vaccine mandates are unjust then buckle-up mandates are unjust.”
By this logic, smoking should be completely banned. Alcohol as well. Doing so would “significantly save lives”. Does the author advocate for banning both?
Greg, my health choices that have rationales and reasons for my body and my family also need to be balanced with the interests of my neighbours – my freedom ends where your nose begins. None of the COVID mandates come close to creating a police state or an objectionable infringement on individual freedom. The public interest and the common good vastly outweigh the loss of an insignificant amount of individual choice. Having to buckle up every time I get into our car or pickup is a much greater intrusion on my individual choices than getting two or three anti-COVID infusions per year, but I support that limit on my individual choice as the benefit for the common good is so significant. I support banning smoking indoors but am fine with others smoking outside as that smoke will only affect their lungs. I have no need to ban alcohol but want very severe penalties for driving while drunk. I want to live in a society where we together make choices that protect the health interests of our neighbours. We all give up some individual choice in the interest of orderliness. I can drive a ton of steel down the two-lane road in front of my youngest brother’s farm and meet another ton of steel going in the opposite direction within maybe three feet of my ton. I am not entitled to have a choice about which side of the road to drive if I want the benefit of that road – there are too many other noses to consider.
There’s a balance to consider and the trucker convoy got that balance very wrong. I’m with Dee Snider, the frontman of the Twisted Sister’s, when he offered his full endorsement for Ukrainians singing his song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as part of their resistance to Russian aggression. But he didn’t have anything nice to say about anti-vaxxers who sing his song at protests. His tweet: “One use is for a righteous battle against oppression; the other is [an] infantile feet stomping against an inconvenience.”
It is heartbreaking – indeed, deeply troubling – to see the judgemental, angry, self-righteous attitude expressed here in this article. Even more, to see these words being praised by many in the comments. The author sets himself against other believers, and in so doing, against their Lord. Shame. Brother, where is your compassion? Where is your love for your siblings in Christ? Your fellow countrymen?
The pharisee in The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18, below) expresses a remarkably similar attitude:
“9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.””