Requiring Vaccination At Work Takes Nobody’s Rights Away

A very large hissy fit has been taking place in Ottawa over recent days.

Some people seemingly upset that Canada has any regulations at all are reacting to divisive politicians falsely claiming people’s rights are being denied when vaccination is compulsory in a commercial activity.

Egged on by populist extreme-right politicians, a so-called “Truckers Freedom Convoy” erupted as a response to the governments of Canada and the U.S. both announcing they would require foreign truck drivers crossing into their country to be fully-vaccinated.

It does Canadians no good to spread disinformation about freedoms that simply do not exist. #FreedomConvoy2022

Since January 28 2022, unvaccinated truckers and their allies have been clogging the Ottawa downtown core honking their horns and making a mess of things. Some have desecrated war memorials, others defacated on the stoops of the homes of LGBT persons and threatened them, while more paraded with NAZI flags and white supremacist symbols. The adult children basically found a way to bring insult and affront to nearly all Canadians.

Not impressed: A Canadian Twitter account shares his mindset about Canada’s “Freedom Convoy”.

The protest turned sufficiently ugly to elicit a sharp response from the Prime Minister of Canada:

Justin Trudeau saying it like it is.

Like too many many populist spasm, this one is based on widely-repeated lies strategically retold as often as needed to cause the most distress and fury possible. This particular lie is that Canadians are having our rights stolen from us.

Although it is true the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms DOES limit government conduct, Canada or an employer requiring vaccination to participate in a specific activity is not one of them. Neither is the creation of health policy about contagious disease.

Discrimination is explicitly prohibited in 4 contexts throughout Canada: in services; at the workplace; in housing + real estate; and in publications and telecommunication. This prohibition from discrimination only sticks when it is on the basis of the enumerated list of explicitly-prohibited personal characteristics defined in each Canadian jurisdiction. That’s it. There’s no more to it than that.

Protection from discrimination does not include any of failing to adhere to a health measure; ignoring regulatory requirements placed on businesses and their employees to control communicative disease; people wishing things were different; or someone ignoring their employer’s company policies.

Canada and the US both require up-to-date immunization for operators of foreign-registered commercial vehicles that enter our countries. There is no entitlement to being let into a country we are not citizens of and there is no entitlement for a worker employed in one country to work in another country. Those activities are made possible thanks to international treaties, and Canadian truckers being able to enter the U.S. to transport goods between Canada and the US do so at the pleasure of the host country they are operating in.

The cross-border commercial haulage industry is federally regulated in Canada – like it is in the U.S.. The industry is subject to international treaties that trucking companies are required to adhere to. It is a service sector in which the work is done by companies that employ workers according to the policies set out by government agencies. If the service providers fails to adhere adhere to these policies, its license to do business will be revoked – much like a driver failing to adhere to the rules of the road risks having their license to operate a motor vehicle revoked. In other words, the rules are compulsory.

People work for the trucking companies or for any other employer in Canada under an employment contract, as a partner, or as owner-operators. Regardless of the contractual relationship with the corporation contracted by a client to do work for them, binding regulation that apply to a company also binds its employees. This same fact applies to every employee of of every employer in Canada and in the US. And this is not subject to personal opinions about vaccines or about preferences.

If a commercial endeavour is required by regulation to have its employees vaccinated against a disease, people have a simple choice: get vaccinated and participate or decline to do so and find another activity.

If a worker in any sector does not wish to be vaccinated in an industry that mandates vaccination for certain activities, that workers may have an opportunity to find work that is not subject to any regulation regarding vaccination. That worker may want to read the room, though. Taking measured and appropriate precautions as recommended by Canada’s Health Officers is probably more sensible than to give up your career over this.

Eery one of us is free to choose whether we are vaccinated, and every one of us makes this choice knowing our decisions always bring consequences.

In the same way, if a surgeon disagrees with the regulatory requirements of providing surgical services in Canada, they are prohibited from practicing their trade here. There are many other jobs available to them, just not this one.

It is everyone’s right to seek employment one is able to perform under the regulatory constraints set out for that job and under the policy constraints the employer adds.

Someone can request accommodation under human rights law and accommodation must be given up to the limit of undue hardship. I touched on this here and here and here.

But it was never a human right or a charter right to ignore regulatory requirements imposed on our employers or policy set out in our employment contracts.

It does nobody any good to spread disinformation about alleged freedoms that are not part of Canadian law or any international treaty. Because that is what undermines law-based societies.

We are all tired after 2 years of covid-19 measures, and it’s really not the time to turn on each other over disinformation. Instead of making things worse and giving hatred targeting fellow Canadians room to express itself, Canadian truckers could have done something that helps others.

Instead of giving hatred room to express itself, protesting Canadian truckers could just have helped their unvaccinated peers.

Helping the 10% of truckers who are unvaccinated find new opportunities within Canada would have been the best possible Canadian answer to the US closing the border to them. Canadians would have supported that decision.



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