The Ontario government caught people by surprise last Monday when it unexpectedly announced that it would scrap its proof-of-vaccine requirement as of March 1, and end all capacity limits on restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor venues as of this past Thursday.
Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta have announced similar earlier-than-anticipated ends to vaccine passports. And other provinces, such as New Brunswick and British Columbia, are also easing some of their COVID-19 rules.
This fast-tracking came at the same time that a teeny-tiny minority of Canadian anti-government protesters were holding an illegal demonstration on the streets of Ottawa, blockading border crossings in several provinces, and demanding an end to all vaccine mandates.
So it’s important to make one thing perfectly clear: The reason the provinces are relaxing the rules now is because people got vaccinated, not because a handful of anti-vaxxers are soaking in hot tubs in front of Parliament Hill.
The heroes in this story are the quiet majority of Canadians who got their shots over the past year. The flag-wrapped protesters are getting what they insist is their right – an end to mandates – on the backs of those who came to the aid of their country, community, family and friends by embracing the best weapon against COVID-19 – the vaccines.
If the battle against the unforgiving and ever-evolving coronavirus is a war, then the nine out of 10 Canadian adults who are fully vaccinated are the people who went over the top of the trenches when called upon.
Only they weren’t asked to die for their country, they were asked not to die, and not to fall seriously ill, in order to protect the health care system from being overrun, to allow elective surgeries to continue as much as possible under the circumstances, to protect their loved ones from the grief of tragic loss, and to help generate the level of mass immunity needed to turn a pandemic into an endemic – the moment at which, with luck, this country now appears to find itself.
The terrible fourth wave brought on by the Omicron variant is receding, in part because its high transmissibility saw the virus move quickly through the population in a short period of time, but also because the vaccines are highly effective at preventing hospitalizations of infected people.
In Ontario, earlier this month, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to end up in hospital, and 12 times more likely to wind up in intensive care, than people who received two or three vaccine doses.
Canada’s high vaccination rate has also helped limit the number of deaths per capita. The death rate here is three times lower than in the United States, where the percentage of fully vaccinated people is 15 points lower.
And while vaccine mandates no doubt helped push some to get their jabs, the vast majority did so willingly as soon as the vaccines were available. Canadians were practically screaming for them when they first rolled out in 2021, and supply couldn’t meet demand.
They did it because the vaccines were proven to be safe and effective, and because public-health experts told them they were best way out of the mess caused by COVID-19. More than 30 million people in Canada have answered that call, out of a total of 36 million over the age of five. It’s a remarkable achievement and a testament to the Canadian character.
These past weeks, though, all we heard about is a minuscule group of attention-seekers who, to use the war analogy, were calling for conscription to end now that VE Day is at hand. That was their perfect right. But they also chose to disrupt the lives of others and blockade streets and vital commercial links, which they do not have the right to do.
Meanwhile, the 30-million-strong silent Canadian majority who vaccinated themselves and their children, and put their heads down and got to work getting through the pandemic and its unpleasant but necessary restrictions and mandates – which polls have consistently shown were supported by a majority of people – are being maligned just as their sacrifices bear fruit.
So let us repeat ourselves: If governments are finding themselves in the position to ease restrictions – something everyone wants – it is thanks to those who answered when called upon to get vaccinated, and not to those who didn’t, and who have seemed intent on kicking the country just as it’s getting back on its feet.
Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.