December 14, 2020
Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau The Honourable Patty Hajdu The Honourable David Lametti Government of Canada Ottawa, ON By Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are writing you about the bad idea floated from an Ontario executive podium respecting immunity passports, so called. On this matter, Canadians deserve a national approach, for countless reasons. We would boil down our civil liberties concerns to five. These concerns are unrelated to the individual choice to get vaccinated. We are anti-oppression, anti-discrimination, not anti-vaxers.
But first it must be said, that the overall human rights challenge with Immunity Passports arises from the disconnect between means and ends. As you know well, the point of the vaccine is to achieve the herd immunity threshold, upon which the proportion of the population immune to the disease is greater than the percentage of the population capable of getting the disease for it to spread. That threshold crossed, the whole community becomes protected – not just the immunized. Herd immunity makes it possible to protect the population from a disease, including those who cannot be vaccinated, such as newborns or those who have compromised immune systems.
If the point of an Immunity Passport is to coerce inoculation, then this raises the issue of individual liberty and government mandated medical treatment, discussed below. But Canadian governments say that they are not mandating inoculation. Accordingly, the purpose of the Immunity Passport, or Immunization Passport, is unrelated to crossing the herd immunity threshold. If it is not about herd immunity, we would argue, then its purpose is wrongheaded and misleading.
It is wrongheaded because of its negative human rights consequences, discussed below. It is misleading, because possession of an inoculation record does not, in fact, equal immunity or proof of not being infected. Nor does the absence of a passport mean that the person is a carrier of COVID, or otherwise susceptible. The inoculated could be infected – they could be one of the few for whom the vaccine fails – just as the uninoculated could be immune. The herd immunity threshold can be achieved notwithstanding these exceptions, however, which is why immunity passports put the cart before the horse.
“Immunity Passport”: Top 5 Human Rights Wrongs
To conclude, there is a need for strong federal leadership to ensure that residents across Canada can meaningfully exercise their right to make informed decisions about their health and make a voluntary decision to participate in the vaccination roll-out to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19.
Your government has set the precedent with the development and support of the COVID Alert app, which emerged under federal leadership with active engagement from provinces and territories. That same leadership is required to ensure a necessary proof of vaccination, for valid health purposes such as appropriate tracking of vaccine uptake, does not become an immunity passport, used either as a matter of policy or in the absence of constraints to create coercive decision spaces or violate rights of any person in Canada, including our most vulnerable who are most at risk of discrimination. CCLA calls on the government of Canada to ensure that any tools crated or used as part of a mass vaccination program are privacy protective and created and used in a manner that supports the letter and spirit of the laws that protect our liberty, equality, privacy, and mobility rights across Canada.
Michael Bryant, CCLA Executive Director
Per Canadian Civil Liberties Association
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