NP View: The Continued and Unnecessary Erosion of Canadians’ Civil Liberties


During the pandemic, politicians have repeatedly waived the very rights of citizenship

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Many aspects of Canada’s response to the pandemic have been absurd and painful. As we learn more about Omicron and what works to limit the spread and hospitalizations (spoiler alert: a lot of it is still about vaccines), we need to focus on quickly restoring the freedoms that have been so easily discarded. The time to wonder if granting freedom is selfish is over. Individual freedoms are an essential part of what it means to be Canadian and the more we infringe on them, the further we fall from what our society represents.

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A good place to start is to remove COVID testing requirements to re-enter the country, without also offering a quarantine option once back. As it stands, returning travelers must show a negative molecular test result taken within 72 hours of boarding a plane or driving. across the border. The problem is that molecular tests have become increasingly difficult to find in many countries and are expensive if you find one, leaving some Canadians stranded abroad.

Of course, one can technically choose to return to the country without a test, but that could rack up fines $6,200 per person –– which would equate to $12,400 for a couple and $24,800 for a family of four. For most Canadians, that would mean crippling debt and presents no real choice. There is also no option to quarantine instead of a fine.

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The policy operates as a clever workaround that does not officially deny Canadians their right to freely return to the country, as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but in fact does. It is a violation of the most basic rights granted to citizens.

Testing travelers for COVID before or after arrival is good practice, but it should not be used to keep Canadians out of the country. Nor is there any reason to insist on molecular testing. Rapid antigen tests prove to be excellent when it comes to detecting transmissible cases. They can actually paint an even more accurate picture, as they can be closer to the actual travel date, rather than up to 72 hours in advance.

“It would be helpful to review travel-related testing and quarantine requirements, taking into account the prevalence of Omicron and testing capacity in the United States and Canada, among other factors,” Dr Irfan said. Dhalla, a public health expert who co-chaired Canada’s Expert Advisory Group on COVID Testing and Tracing, written in an email to the National Post earlier this week.

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  1. Pharmacist Alison Davison prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy on 17 Ave.  SW in Calgary on March 5, 2021.

    Carson Jerema: Forget lockdowns – the end of the pandemic is already here

  2. FILE PHOTO: A respiratory therapist and six nurses prone to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) inside the intensive care unit at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada April 19, 2021.

    Dr David Jacobs: Omicron filled my hospital, but the Delta wave panic is gone

We agree with Dr. Rodney Russell, professor of virology and immunology at Memorial University, who, noting that it is not appropriate to deny readmission to Canadian citizens, asked: “If the house can’t be asylum for Canadians, where is it? »

The best argument for testing inbound travelers is to identify and catch future variants before they enter the country. However, this does not necessarily have to be at the expense of our rights. For example, rather than offloading responsibility onto individuals, public health teams could collect saliva samples or swabs at border crossings or airports.

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Unhindered re-entry is just one of many freedoms Canadians have been asked to give up during the pandemic, which has now lasted nearly two years. A shortlist includes our freedom of assembly and association, religious freedoms, mobility rights and the right to earn a living. Historically, these are the principles of what it means to be a Canadian citizen and to live in a liberal democracy.

Access to health care, another foundation of Canadian identity, has also been denied to many, with few viable solutions to restore it. While delayed and canceled surgeries are justified because COVID has overwhelmed hospitals, it has as much to do with this country’s chronically fragile health care capacity as anything else.

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It’s hard to see how we could restore widespread and timely access to health care in the next few years unless some sweeping changes are made to the status quo.

These sacrifices were first presented as temporary, but it seems politicians and public health officials have grown accustomed to keeping them as permanent pocket options in place of more innovative and, frankly, more effective solutions. Every time restrictions are eased or lifted, there remains a lingering threat that the hammer will return at some point.

Our leaders often say that the decision to limit our rights is difficult, and yet falling back on drastic measures has clearly become the easy way out for them.

It is disturbing to see these rights being sidelined time and time again, with no regard for how this might change the very fabric of our nation. The longer we treat fundamental freedoms as optional, the harder it will be to return to a state where they are unassailable and truly guaranteed.

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The ubiquitous analogies comparing sacrifice during the pandemic to war efforts in the 1940s are misleading and manipulative. This is not a war, and the virus will not surrender like Nazi Germany. What is happening is more like the so-called “War on Drugs” or “War on Terror,” which have been used to justify restrictions on civil liberties for years.

Going forward, we must set a higher threshold for when the imposition of restrictions that infringe on the freedoms of Canadians becomes justified, and adopt them only in the most extreme circumstances. Otherwise, we risk losing the very essence of what it means to be Canadian.

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