Skip to main content

Travellers arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Feb. 22, 2021. Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu advised Canadians against travelling this holiday season in a recent interview.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Patty Hajdu has just shown us how you turn the actuaries, data input specialists, soccer moms and comic-book nerds of the nation into anti-government radicals.

Fresh off the heels of an election campaign, in which federal leaders and their cohorts flew all across Canada, Ms. Hajdu – the country’s Health Minister – took a moment during an interview with Global News last weekend to advise Canadians against travelling this holiday season.

“I’ll remind Canadians that, as annoying as it is … we still have travel advisories in place recommending that people don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary,” she said. “There are a number of places in the world where COVID is still very very out of control, including some American states.”

She also noted that some jurisdictions have changed rules around travel very quickly, which necessitated repatriation flights early in the pandemic.

The message from the federal government, then: Stay home, be good, don’t do what you watched federal leaders do for six weeks (albeit, within Canada) just a few weeks ago. Oh, and also: We’re working on that vaccine passport we promised, and it should be ready in a few weeks for the travel we’re also telling you not to do.

This is the sort of thoughtless moralizing that will make everyday Canadians swap their Excel spreadsheets and orange slices for war paint and picket signs. The majority of Canadians stayed home during lockdowns, forfeited all sorts of social events, adjusted to ever-changing policies around work, school and recreation, and lined up dutifully for their vaccines. Despite that, Ms. Hajdu is now asking compliant Canadians to sacrifice even more, all while the noncompliant protest outside hospitals and occupy ICU spaces. It’s enough to send the country’s quiescent accountants over the edge.

This holiday season will not be Christmas, 2020, when no one was vaccinated and provincial cabinet ministers had to sneak away to their vacation spots in St. Barts, Hawaii or Palm Springs, Calif. (the poor dears couldn’t even post their tropical pics on Instagram, for fear of public shaming). By now, most people understand that they travel at their own risk and might have to find their own way home should they become stranded outside of the country.

Ms. Hajdu noted that outbreaks have been seeded by travellers moving around and outside the country, but that’s merely a reminder that at no time during this pandemic have our borders been closed to non-essential travellers (despite misinformation propagated by the Public Safety Minister and others).

Canadians have always been free to fly out of the country and return whenever they wanted. The border measures that the federal government did impose – namely, the three-day mandatory hotel stay for incoming travellers – failed to contain much of anything, and certainly not the import of new variants. What’s more, fully vaccinated Americans and other foreign nationals have been permitted to travel into Canada for months; it doesn’t follow that we should at once open our borders to foreign travellers, but also shame Canadians for trying to reclaim a little bit of the lifestyle they once enjoyed.

The inconsistency of government messaging has perhaps been the one consistency of the past 18 months. Please take the first vaccine you’re offered, they said – before later saying, actually, maybe not that one. We now know that COVID-19 is transmitted through the air, so please sanitize your surfaces, they said. We have some of the toughest border-control measures in the world, unless you fly into Alberta and don’t feel like going to a quarantine hotel, or have enough money for a private plane. You may now sit in an arena with nearly 20,000 people who show proof of vaccination, but it might be too dangerous to sit on a plane with a couple hundred people who show proof of a recent negative test. Oh, and please do not cross the border, even as we work with Americans to recognize a mixed-dosing schedule.

Travelling a year ago was a hard thing to justify. But fully vaccinated individuals who have followed the rules until now ought to be able to escape for a mental-health reprieve without the scorn of federal officials who might not even have unpacked yet from their campaign jaunts across the country. (Canadian travellers should also get the chance to return from trips with a tan, say, or maybe a souvenir – anything other than the status-quo result their politicians picked up instead.) Instead, most will simply ignore Ms. Hajdu’s advice and go ahead and book the vacations that we non-politicians deprived ourselves of last year.

But a few more divorced-from-reality, deaf-to-irony, steeped-in-sanctimony requests from federal ministers, and the government risks compelling typically co-operative Canadians into their own form of anti-government protest.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct