Category Archives: Human rights

Are vaccine passports fair?

 

As part of a project since I retired (more or less), Christiane and I have been attending various activities under the general heading of continuing education or learning for life. We have been taking all kinds of courses at various venues—from the University of Manitoba to McNally Robinson Booksellers. Many of them have been truly amazing. It probably doesn’t show, but Christiane and I have learned a lot.

Recently we latched on to a new venue, the Rose and Max Rady Jewish Community Centre. This is a gem! It has all kinds of programs. Our first venture was a concert of music from 2 of Manitoba’s finest French musicians who played classic French Canadian music, including some wonderful country tunes. Our next venture was a lecture by my guru, Arthur Schafer, a professor of philosophy at the University of Manitoba and director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba. We participated via Zoom in a delightful talk by Professor Schafer on the subject of the ethics of vaccine passports. I is surprising how many ethical issues arise during a pandemic.

Professor Schafer pointed out to us that Israel has recently imposed what it calls a Green Passport. In Israel the rules of confinement imposed by Covid-19 requirements apply to everyone with very exceptions. One of the exceptions is that holders of green passports are entitled to move about freely as they wish, except that in public places they must wear a mask to protect others. The Green passport gives a record of one’s immunizations, including the date taken, and whether or not one has contracted Covid-19 to such an extent that antibodies have been produced in that person. If you have such a passport you can almost go anywhere you like free of encumbrances.

Other countries are now considering the same thing, including Canada. In some places they call it Vaccine Passport in others an immunity certificate, but the effect is always more or less the same. Special privileges are given to those with the Passport. Is this a good idea? Is it fair? Is it just?

Unlike Canada, in Israel 50% of the people have already received vaccinations . So, 50% of the people can do basically what they want, and the rest have to wait until they get their vaccine shot.  But the other 50% have to stay home and suck socks. Is that fair?

In Israel, as in other countries, some people object to vaccinations or are reluctant to take them, on religious or cultural grounds. Advocates for the program in Israel say it encourages people to take the vaccine. Opponents say the program is coercive, unfair, and unreasonable. Does the government have the right to coerce people to take the vaccine? What about people who can’t take the vaccine for medical reasons? Pregnant people are warned against taking the vaccine since there is currently insufficient evidence that the vaccine is healthy for a human fetus.

Now an incentive would be a good thing if the vaccine will protect our health system from being overwhelmed and posing a huge risk to many people and to protect our society and its citizens from devastating harm of the disease itself. These are both significant dangers. So avoiding them or mitigating them are a serious public good.

I ask you, is this reasonable or justified? What do you think? Tomorrow, I will give my views in my next post and I don’t want to influence anyone just yet.

Please give me the benefit of your opinions.

Conflicting Stories; Colliding Freedoms

 

We are hearing a lot of conflicting stories about Covid-19 and its variants and the vaccines. In Europe it seems like the pandemic has fresh legs that make it spread widely again, with more raging force than ever before. Yet in Manitoba we are “cautiously” opening up according to our Chief Medical Officer Brent Roussin. Is this really cautious? Why does he not think the same thing that is happening now in Europe won’t happen here too? I hope he is right, but I fear he is wrong. I hope he is not feeling the pressure from religious people like those in the Church of God Restoration outside of Steinbach, and others, that want to open up faster.

Yet the Winnipeg Free Press today reported,

“CANADA’S chief public health officer said Sunday that the collective efforts to fight COVID-19 are paying off, even as the country sits at a “critical juncture” in the fight against fast spreading variants.

Dr. Theresa Tam said on Twitter that COVID-19 disease activity continues to decline and vaccination is heading in the right direction.

“Our collective effort has begun to tip the balance in our favour,” she wrote. But she said Canadians need to maintain COVID-19 precautions to protect each other, especially as cases of more contagious variants are mounting across the country.”

On the other hand, the same article reported that “The faster-spreading COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom has made its way into some schools in British Columbia, health officials announced late Saturday.”

 

Is that not concerning, considering what we know about the new variants of Covid-19?  I know vaccines help, but frankly not many Canadian arms have received it. I would feel a lot better if they did.

Of course, as we all know Covid-19 is amplifying existing inequities. That same article reported on this issue as follows:

” In a message published Sunday, Tam noted that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on racialized communities. She said cases are 1.5 to 5 times higher in racialized communities in Toronto and Ottawa, while people living on First Nations reserves have a 69 per cent higher rate of infection compared to the general population.

“These disproportionate impacts among racialized and Indigenous communities are not due to biological differences between groups or populations,” she wrote.

“Rather, they reflect existing health inequities that are strongly influenced by a specific set of social and economic factors — things like income, education, employment and housing that shape an individual’s place in society.”

She said it’s imperative to work to fight racism in workplaces, education and health and social services systems, which she said has contributed to vaccine hesitancy in some communities and helped to create the inequitable living and working conditions that make some groups more susceptible to COVID-19.”

 

Often, I think William Faulkner was right: “We can never catch up with injustice.” But, I wish our religious people would not divert the attention of our health officials from fighting Covid-19 to dealing with their demands that they deal instead with their dubious claims of infringement on their religious freedom. I wish those religious zealots instead spent more time working to eradicate social injustice. Would that not make God happier?

The Spiritual Dudes want a Break

 

Steinbach seems to be the hotbed of opposition to Manitoba’s Covid-19 health orders and guidelines. Local reeve, Lewis Weiss says he is opposed to what the province is doing, but the only reason he gives is that he finds the rules unclear and that “he is not a great believer” in the efficacy of face masks.

 

Everyone wants a break.  Dr. Brent Roussin Manitoba’s Chief Medical Officer and responsible for Manitoba’s response to the Covid-19 crisis said that if he listened to every group that argued for exemptions from Manitoba health guidelines or orders, there would be no order or guidelines. Everyone would be on their own and we would be in a big trouble. So, he and his group make the best decisions they can based on science. I actually think they have not been restrictive enough.

 

The Church of God (Restoration) near Sarto and Steinbach has defied provincial orders and guidelines repeatedly. Most recently, they were charged for violating the prohibition against church services indoors.   Pastor Heinrich Hildebrandt said, “No one’s obligated to come inside, but you’re all welcome to come inside because the scripture teaches us that we should be gathering together.” The Church’s online statement said,

“The Church of God’s embassy on earth is sovereign when it acts in His will and purpose and any attempts to impede its sovereignty are wrong…When tyranny becomes law, resistance becomes duty. Godly people do not fight with physical violence but the weapons of our warfare are spiritual and we fight against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

 

Then there are a group of guys I have breakfast and conversation with once a week. Well at least we used to get together to do that. For about a year now we have met online virtually by Zoom.  Someone called us “the Spiritual Dudes” because we often discuss religion. We are not a cult. We like to discuss all kinds of issues including religion. We all have differing views, but to some extent are aufgefalna—i.e. fallen off the branch. We like to think for ourselves. Frankly, we would all like to get together in a restaurant but have dutifully obeyed the health orders and guidelines so far without much complaint. None of us are asking for the rules to be relaxed. But we want to get together

What all of these groups have in common is that they want to be together but none of these groups, even my group, have come up with a good reason why we should be allowed to get together during a health pandemic.

Recently Canada has seen a 30% drop in active Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks. That is wonderful. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Medical Health Officer said there are 48,221 active Covid-19 cases in Canada, down from more than 68,400 cases two weeks ago. She also said the daily federal tally has been trending downwards with an average of 4,061 new infections reported per day the past week. She also said this slowdown has led to a gradual decline in severe Covid-19 outcomes. All of this is good, but according to her, it is not good enough. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported:

“Even with this decline, Tam said, the current caseload continues to burden local health-care resources, particularly in regions with high infection rates. “The risk remains that trends could reverse quickly…This is particularly important in light of the emergence of new virus variants that could rapidly accelerate transmissions of Covid-19 in Canada…These factors underscore the importance of sustaining public health measures and individual practices and not easing restrictions too fast or too soon.”

 

Or as my very smart wife said, “Rates are going down because we have had restrictions.” Why would we get rid of them so soon?

We need to have good public policies based on the best science not on wants.

How many of us have blood on our hands?

 

I read a disturbing article in the Winnipeg Free today by Melissa Martin. It brought home the situations in our Intensive Care Units (‘ICU’). I wish all Manitobans would read it. Especially those who have been reckless about endangering others and our health system by their careless and selfish attitudes to Covid-19.

Martin pointed out how our ICUs are being stretched to the limit. The nurses there, particularly those temporary and poorly trained extender nurses who don’t normally work in ICUs, told her a little bit about what life was like in the front lines of this war. The stress is nearly unendurable.

First, there is the stress of working in life or death situations without proper training.  One of the nurses said she has been “gripped by constant anxiety.” She was an experienced nurse, but she was not experienced or trained to work in an ICU until she was called in as an “extender nurse.”  Manitoba was forced to increase its ICU capacity by 50% because of the steady influx of patients. As Martin pointed out, “Still, pressure on ICUs remains high: as of Monday, 102 patients were in critical care, including 38 with COVID19-related illness. Before the pandemic, the province had 72 total ICU beds.” Normally, nurses like her who move to an ICU get months of training including hands-on learning. She got one day’s training! Then she is put in charge of patients whose lives are at risk! Think about that stress for a minute.

She called it a “steep learning curve.” The nurse said that every day in December when she went to work, she cried. As Martin reported, the nurse “often felt as if she was left to fend for herself. It wasn’t for lack of support from the regular unit staff; it’s just they had too many demands on their time to take her fully under their wing. That made worse the uncertainty of navigating medications and devices with which she had little experience.I sometimes thought I had a high-pressure job. That was nothing compared to this pressure! Unsurprisingly, the nurse said, “my mental health has taken a nose-dive.”  You think?

The nurse said,

“The extenders I’ve talked to, it’s mostly been negative experiences,” Isabelle said. “They’re not happy. They’re anxious. They’re nervous they’re going to be placed in a situation where they’re not comfortable.”

 

Another of the nurses pointed out she understood why others could not help her. Everyone in the ICU was overwhelmed. As a result, even though she was not properly trained, she had no choice to deal with the problems. Her superiors were also overwhelmed. This was particularly acute because they lost some staff during that time. As she said,

“They couldn’t really monitor everything I was doing… It’s not for lack of people trying to support me. It’s just been this overwhelming surge of acuity like we haven’t seen before, and also this reduction in staff.”

 The nurse explained what it felt like to work under such conditions. She compared it to war conditions! Here is what she said,

 “COVID was spoken of as a war. It was, “We’re fighting COVID, and the front-line people, they’re our soldiers.’ But I didn’t know we were going to staff this army with like, three people. I’ve never seen that level of excellence we’re talking about. I’ve only seen people in war, and in suffering.”

 

I feel profound empathy for anyone who had to work under such war-like conditions. As Martin explained that nurses felt it in different ways. During the peak nurses saw as many as four patients die in one shift. Each emptied bed was filled swiftly by what Sarah called a “conveyor belt” of incoming COVID-19 cases, a new set of lives hanging by a thread. Those deaths were made even harder by the fact, in most cases, families were not allowed in the building.

Understandably some of the nurses feel they have been treated badly. They have been treated badly. The ones to blame here are not the health care officials who supervise hospitals in horrendous circumstances. They are dealing with a new coronavirus. The ones to blame are Manitobans! Ordinary everyday Manitobans who have been treating Covid-19 cavalierly and negligently are to blame. People who have not been treating the disease seriously and following the Manitoba health guidelines. That includes many of us. Not just the Christians from my own community who have been selfishly putting their own need to join in religious services with their fellow congregants, but definitely those. Is exercising our “right” to ignore health guidelines and our right to religious freedom more important than protecting our health care workers and the patients they are trying to save? We all could have done better and made the jobs of health care workers easier. As a result of our actions they  are incredibly stressed while they try to save lives. Many of us have blood on our hands!

Free Speech in a pandemic

 

I have seen in many places, including Steinbach, and on TV reporting, at Trump rallies, and even the rampage on the Capitol, signs that say things like this:

“mask free zone,” or “No Masks,” or “The media is the virus.”

Statements like this are dangerous in a health pandemic. We are entitled to free speech, but are we entitled to make blatantly false statements that contradict all available science to such an extent that public health measures are compromised and lives endangered? How is this different than shouting “Fire” in a dark and crowded theatre when there is no fire? How far does free speech go?

 

Too many people forget that free speech is important but not absolute.

 

Bombshell

 

 

This was a film released in 2019. It stars 3 outstanding female actresses in 3 outstanding roles. In this film the men are the sidebars. The women are the film. Charlize Theron plays Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil. The women were all women television personalities at Fox News involved in the claims of sexual harassment against the CEO of Fox Roger Ailes. I actually don’t know the true story of the events so can’t complain about the truth or accuracy of the film’s version of events. That is good, because then I am free to say, the story is true. It is true in the same sense that Macbeth is true. That is what counts.

I was particularly engrossed by the role of Kayla Pospisil. She wanted to be a star on Fox like Megyn and Gretchen She is a true child of Fox. For her and her family is Fox is their religion.  Kayla, played by Margot Robbie,  boldly said, “I don’t want to be on TV, I want to be on Fox. My family, everyday, especially holidays is Fox News. Fox News is how we go to Church.” This nicely captured the theological devotion to Fox. That is what Fox is all about.

Trying to get a spot on Fox News, preferably a show like Kelly or Carlson you see how she would do anything to get on the show no matter how degrading and she gets the opportunity to do exactly that. She gets solid advice from her friend a secret lesbian, and horrors, someone who doesn’t automatically hate liberals. Fox is not the place for her to be. But the friend gives her this advice:

“You have to adopt the attitude of an Irish street cop. The world is a bad place. People are lazy morons. Minorities are criminals. Sex is sick, but interesting. Ask yourself what will scare my grand mother, or piss off my grand father, and that’s a Fox story. Frighten. Titillate. Frighten. Titillate. Frighten. Titillate. When you start a story you need to start with a clear villain: Liberal judge, Vermont, Hollywood. Conservatives want to conserve. You are the last defence against Jesus hating, trans loving, Clinton controlled Armageddon.”

That is Fox News! Particularly the commentators like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.  Again from my experience, even though I admit I have not watched Fox often, except for excerpts on Comedy News,  that must be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. This felt true. Of course, that is a poor way to judge truth.

The men on the show are largely rogues. Again this just has to be true. As is said of Bill O’Reilly: “He cannot scale his anger. He is a perpetual anger machine. That’s why the crazies love him.” When he appears on television, and I think this was a “real” clip he said,

“In this country every famous or wealthy man is a target. You’re a target. I’m a target. Any time someone could come out and sue us, attack us, or get the press, and that’s a deplorable situation.”

That’s the whimpering cry of rich and powerful men. We should feel sorry for them. They are the ones that are oppressed.

The women who want a job must pass the Roger Ailes test. They must give a spin in a circle in front of this powerful  sleazy old man to demonstrate they have the body for the job. This certainly must be true. Ailes tells Pospisil:

“This is the most competitive industry on earth. I could pluck you out of a line and move you to the front. But you have to give me one thing. Do you know what it is? (He pauses for a long time) Loyalty (like his hero Trump and with just as much grace.) You have to prove you are loyal. And you must find a way to prove it. That’s about it and we’ll talk again”.

The message is clear enough. Pospisil knows what she must do. Will she do it? If she does it or not she will pay a price either way. A big price.

The movie is about women standing up (or not) to powerful men. No let me rephrase that. This is the story about people standing up to powerful people. People who can oppress you and make you pay a big price. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. It takes great courage to stand up and those who do, rarely “win”. Even when they “win” they lose. That makes it a universal story. That’s why it’s a true story. No matter what the facts.

I don’t want to give away the truth of the film, but I want to point out 2 facts with which the film closes.

Fox paid $50 million dollars to 2 women who alleged sexual harassment which its 2 male stars denied. And it also paid $65 million to the two male stars it said it had “just cause” to fire The two women who risked their careers to make the claim and were among the first to bring down 2 powerful public male television news stars, but they were not the last. And they were paid less than the male alleged harasser. What kind of “victory” is that? Reminds me of the fact that after the Civil War the United States paid reparations after the slaves were freed because of centuries of enslavement. The reparations were paid to southern plantation owners who lost their property!

At least one of the women had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Darn I hate those and the lawyers who get away with demanding them.

This was an excellent film with a lot of truth. Ugly truth.

 

 

Religious Freedom on trial again

Another church hit the news in Manitoba. This time it was the Springs Church. Though from Winnipeg, Steinbach has a lot of connections with the Springs Church. Many Steinbachers attend it and are members in it.

The church  felt it was unfairly treated by Manitoba Health orders requiring all church gatherings to be virtual. In my opinion, they actually had a stronger argument than the Church of God Restoration in Steinbach. All they wanted was permission to conduct church services in the church parking lot through a broadcast  and loudspeaker with promises that they would not allow participants to use the washroom facilities and would not permit socializing. So if anyone had to go they would have to go.

They even had some scientific evidence that the chance of the virus spreading if people remained in vehicles with windows up there was very low. The province though feared members would socialize and then the damage would be done and it could not be undone.

It was unusual, but the court agreed to hear arguments from lawyers for both sides on a Saturday so that a decision could be made before Sunday services.

The church argued the most recent Manitoba public health order, which required religious services to be only available online or via broadcasts, violates their members’ freedoms of religion and association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The order also bans public gatherings of more than five people, whether religious or not.

Springs Church asked on behalf of its members for a temporary stay of enforcement of the order so that drive-in services could continue until a full hearing on the charter issue could be held. Their lawyer argued the drive-in services do not pose a threat to public health, since attendees are told to remain in the vehicles while a pastor speaks from the stage. I must admit this argument makes some sense.

The province’s lawyers argued the restrictions on in-person gatherings whether religious or not are required to slow the spread of COVID-19. Until recently, Manitoba had for a while the highest per-capita rates of new infections among provinces. And Steinbach was at the top of the list in Manitoba.

It should be remembered that this was a preliminary motion. That means it was a temporary order allowing parties to present more time and arguments later if they wished Sometimes courts like to act quickly. More often they like to meander towards the truth. Being a recovering lawyer, maybe that is where I get my meandering tendencies.

The Springs Church requested a stay of legislation. As a result the church had a high onus of proof. It is not enough to prove that they are right in their argument. They also have to prove they would suffer irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction against the government was not granted. That is hard to prove. And according to the Court of Queen’s Bench Judge they failed to prove it. I agree with that decision.

Justice Joyal decided that the Springs church failed to show sufficient evidence that being able to sit in a car while listening to a church is required to practice their religion while they could sit at home and participate remotely form there. Isn’t one as really good as the other? Are their religious freedoms really being significantly violated?

It must be remembered that because this is a preliminary motion, once the trial is held, if it is held, the church could still win the case.

It was also interesting that on Saturday Manitoba had the highest number of deaths in one day—19 in the history of this pandemic. I really think Manitoba health officials should not be wasting their time arguing with churches in court. Their energies could be better spent fighting the pandemic. I really think Christian churches should think more about others and demonstrate that they take seriously the words of their God to love others as they love themselves. I think so far members of this church have only demonstrated that they love themselves.

 

Where is the love?–Faith and public health collide near Steinbach

 

 

Steinbach was in the news again. Religion did it again. Last week, the police confronted more than a 100 vehicles at the Church of God Restoration south of Steinbach yesterday. The members of the church had been warned that if they tried again to flout Manitoba’s Health orders against religious gathering they would be ticketed. So the police warned them not to gather or they would be ticketed. The RCMP went one step farther and blocked off the driveway from the adjacent highway after the maximum 5 vehicles drove onto the parking lot of the church. Earlier, the same church was fined $5,000 and their pastor $1,296. It was the pastor’s second such fine. Under current Manitoba public health orders all faith-based services must be conducted virtually. The church is certainly taking what they perceive to be their rights seriously.

One of the congregants made an interesting argument:

“You can go back into Winnipeg and go to Walmart, and there’ll be 800 cars in the parking lot, just like there is in Costco, but we can’t go in this parking lot because it’s deadly? What if I put a Wal-Mart sign on that building, would that make it better?” Dube said.

Yet, are they really analogous? At Wal-Mart is there a danger that people will socialize as they wait in line to get their groceries?

The Minster of the church, Tobias Tissen, was not backing down. He said he was going to continue to have Sunday church services. This is what he said:

“Really, these police officers that are here blocking our entrance, they’re not blocking us, they are blocking God … by laying fines upon us, handing out tickets — mister officers, do you realize you are doing that to God?” he said.

Can anyone block God? Is that possible? According to Manitoba’s top public health official Dr. Brent Roussin who is charged with the responsibility of making these public health orders,  “faith-based gatherings had been identified as proven resources of Covid-19 transmission.” As well as saying that, Dr. Roussin added this by way of justification:

“We know that from the literature, from our own experience, that prolonged, indoor gathering such as faith-based gatherings are high risk for super-spreading events.’

Dr.) Roussin why we can’t be here?” Allard, one of those in attendance asked.

The province’s top doctor reiterated on Friday that faith-based gatherings have been identified as proven sources of COVID-19 transmission:

“We know that from the literature, from our own experience, that prolonged, indoor gathering such as faith-based gatherings are high risk for super-spreading events.”

Another visitor who asked not to be identified and who it seems was not a member of the church at all, made perhaps the most interesting argument of all when he said,

“The gym provides essential services for me. It helps me to boost my immune system. The church provides essential services for those who believe in God — it’s essential to them … some would say it’s more important to them than food and water.”

This argument is analogous to those who argue that schools should be kept open even though they do pose a health risk, because schools are essential for the health of young people. Is it not reasonable to suggest that for some people religious services including a communal or even social aspect, are essential to maintaining mental health?

One of the attendants took the actions of the province as a challenge saying,

“I hope they try to make an example out of me. I hope the Crown attorney keeps this ticket alive. Don’t drop the ticket, come at me — we’re going to set a precedent.”

One thing that disturbs me about all these arguments made by self-proclaimed Christians. What about love thy neighbour as thyself?  I always thought that was the most important part of religion. I did not see any concern for others among these conservative Christians. That makes me distrust their assertion that their claim is based on religion.

Where is the love?

Public Health vs. Religious Freedom

 

The issues between the Church of God Restoration outside of Steinbach and public health officials have raised some interesting issues relating to freedom of religion. How far does it go?

Members of the church and their supporters have said Manitoba’s laws that make the wearing of masks compulsory in public places and require faith-based institutions to confine their gatherings to virtual on line gatherings which they believe violates their Charter Rights to Freedom of Religion as well as their right to mobility, security, and personal liberty.

Recently, University of Manitoba Professor of Law, whose course on aboriginal rights I audited a couple of years ago, had this to say in response:

“These organizations might be correct that Charter rights have been violated, since the threshold for establishing a rights violation is low. Idiosyncratic religious beliefs and practices are charter-protected as long as they are genuine. Yet court challenges to the face-mask and business-closure laws based on charter rights violations are bound to fail.”

She recently published an article in the Winnipeg Free Press and I want to expand a bit on what she said.

It is not enough to say that Charter Rights to Religious Freedom have been violated. That is only the first step in the analysis. That is because the Charter recognized that no Charter Rights are absolute. We live in a pluralistic society so rights always have to be balanced against the rights of others. It is never as simple as the supporters of the Church of God Restoration are making it out to be.

The Canadians Charter specifically provides that a Charter right may be justifiably violated if a restriction imposed by the government is a “reasonable limit” that is “demonstrably justified” in a “free and democratic society.” If a law passes this test even if it does infringe on Charter right like freedom of religion it is nonetheless lawful.

When rights clash a court may be called upon to determine how the conflict should be resolved.

The Province of Manitoba takes the position that its public health orders are justified because they are necessary to protect the public from a serious international health pandemic. The first question judges ask in such a situation is whether or not there is a “pressing and substantial need” for the government to respond to a problem. Charter violations will not be permitted for trivial needs. Is there any doubt that the current problem is both pressing and substantial? Not in my mind, but no doubt, in the minds of the protesters the need has been greatly exaggerated. But they must present evidence of their claims in court if they want to successfully challenge the admitted infringement.

People making claims in court, will learn that they must present evidence. Courts make decisions based on evidence. Making wild claims to the media may work when you are trying to persuade the public, but courts demand evidence. We too should demand evidence. I have not seen any evidence that supports the claim that Covid-19 is not a serious problem. Have you? As a result I think the church and its supporters will lose on this part of their claim. So the second step goes to the province. This is a serious health problem that deserves a serious response. But this does not end the dispute.

The third step in proving the province’s case is that government response must be proportionate to the harm done to the supporters of the church. The supporters of the church have had their Charter rights violated so the government response must be proportionate to the harm suffered. The province can’t wildly overstep in other words. I think most of us would agree that the admitted harm done to the church members is proportionate to the harm they have suffered and proportionate to the seriousness of the harm done to the public. Again evidence would be needed for a court to decide.

Fourthly, the province must establish in court  with evidence, that there is a rational connection between the means to achieve a goal and the goal itself? In other words, does the public health order imposed by the Province of Manitoba actually help solve the serious health problem Manitoba faces? If not, and it is just there for show for example, the law would not pass as a valid violation of a Charter right. This is a bit more difficult to prove. The province would have to prove to the court’s satisfaction, again based on evidence, that the measures it imposes are really needed to curb the pandemic and would in fact help to keep the public safe.

There is still a fifth step the province must overcome. The province must prove, again based on evidence, that there is no less intrusive way to achieve its goal of protecting the public. For example, is it possible for church members to meet in a way that maintains social distancing? If the province is able to prove there is no other reasonable and viable way of achieving its goal the public health order in the circumstances it would survive the Charter challenge as a reasonable limit on the member’s religious freedom in a free and democratic society. I admit I have some doubts on this score, but suspect the province could bring sufficient evidence to bear to convince the judge that less intrusive measures would be inadequate.

 

I think this is a very rational approach. Letting ignorant pundits on the Internet tell us what to do would not be a rational approach.

I want to make one last point that courts will often defer to governments who have to make decisions in pressure packed environments such as an international health pandemic when governments are trying to protect vulnerable groups such as us old guys. Such decisions really should be made by public health experts and related professionals such as economists and others debating freely with the best available data in front of them. It would not be right for a single judge to make such a decision. Nor should it be made by radical protesters who ignore science at the expense of everyone else.

 

I agree with Donald Trump about the “Wuhan Flu.”

I find some sympathy for Donald Trump on one issue (among others actually). When it comes to China he gets conflicting advice.  Some of his advisors want him to be tough on China and others urge him not rock the economic boat.  The hawks wanted Trump to take a public critical stance against China and to  start calling the virus the “Wuhan Virus.

I must admit at first I thought this was nuts. Childish and nuts. I called it an attempt to deflect blame from himself to China. No doubt that was part of his rationale for starting to do that. But there is more to the issue than that. I changed my mind after listening to a very unlikely source for a contrary view—Bill Maher. Maher has a weekly rant on his TV show and for the first time ever, by my recollection, he ranted in favor of Trump. This is his rant in full with a couple of editorial interruptions by me.

I am not sure what the cause of the Coronavirus is, but if (and as far as I know that is a pretty big if), if it is established that the cause was in fact the wet markets of China I agree with this illiberal rant by Bill Maher in response to a poll that showed Americans are split on whether or it’s racist to call COVID-19 the Chinese virus. Here is Maher’s rant in full:

“You can’t yell at someone for breaking a rule you just made up. Scientists–yes scientists who are usually pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time. Zika virus is from the Zika forest. Ebola from the Ebola River. Hantavirus from the Hantan River. There’s the West Nile virus, And Guinea worm, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and of course the Spanish flu. (although that one did not originate there) MERS stands for Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome. It’s plastered all over airports and no one blogs about it. So why should China get a pass?

Congressman Ted Lieu tweeted: “The virus is not constrained by country or race. Be just as stupid to call it the Milan Virus.” No, that would be way stupider because it didn’t come from Milan. And if it did, I guarantee, we’d be calling it the Milan virus… Can’t we even have a pandemic without getting offended? When they named Lyme disease after a town in Connecticut the locals didn’t get all ticked off.

Seriously it scares me that there are people out there who would rather die form the virus than call it by the wrong name. This isn’t about vilifying a culture. This is about facts. It’s about life and death. We’re barely 4 months into this pandemic, and the wet markets in China, the one’s where exotic are sold and consumed, are already starting to re-open. The P.C police say it’s racist to attack any cultural practice that is different than our own.

I say liberalism lost its way when it started thinking like that and pretending that forcing a woman to wear this (he showed an image of total body niqab ) was a just a different way, instead of an abhorrent human rights violation. (Again, I only agree with this to the extent that women are forced to dress like that. To the extent they freely chose to dress like that, I am OK with that). It’s not racist to point out that eating bats is bat-shit crazy. In 2007 researchers at the University of Hong Kong wrote: “The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.”

Dr. Fauci says, we should force a global closure of the wet markets because the current crisis “is a direct result of them.” On Monday the acting head of the UN’s biodiversity said the same thing.

So when someone says, “what if people hear  ‘Chinese virus’ and blames China, the answer is we should blame China. Not Chinese Americans, (or Canadian) but we can’t stop telling the truth just because racists get the wrong idea. There are always going to be idiots out there who want to indulge their prejudices, but this is an emergency. Don’t we have bigger tainted fish to fry? Jesus, if the sun was exploding, the Twitter would pile up against the first person who called it a ‘dwarf star.’

Sorry Americans we’re going to have to ask you to keep 2 ideas in your head at the same time. This has nothing to do with Asian-Americans, and it has everything to do with China. We can’t afford the luxury anymore of non-judginess towards a country with habits that kill millions of people everywhere, because this isn’t the first time. SARS came from China. And the bird flu. And the Hong Kong flu. The Asian flu. Viruses come from China like short stops come from the Dominican Republic.

If they were selling nuclear suitcases at these wet markets would we be so non-judgmental? And isn’t this pretty close to what they are selling? And the next one could be even worse. If the Chinese military had purposely infected this country with coronavirus  as a bio-weapon, we’d be at war with them. We are always griping about how China manipulates their currency. Well I’m not monetary expert but I think you would agree this one hurt our economy a little more than currency manipulation. And China can do this. China once built a 57-story skyscraper in 19 days. There’s been a pothole on my street for 19 years. They’re not like us. They can actually get shit done. This is a dictatorship that for decades enforced a one child per family under penalty of forced sterilization. But you can’t close down the farmer’s market from hell?

They need to use that iron fist and pound it down because it kind of does. And I hope that if Americans were told that eating hot pockets could cause a world- wide pandemic that we would have the good sense to stop doing it. Although I wouldn’t bet on it.”

That’s what Maher said and I think I agree with that. I hope you appreciate, this is hard for me to do. I have to publicly admit Donald Trump was right and I was wrong!

In Canada, we have had cases where Jehovah Witnesses who were parents of children, were refusing on their children’s behalf to take life-saving blood transfusions when the science was clear the transfusions were medically necessary to save their lives. The court held, and I agreed, that the state had the right to interfere to protect the children who were too young to decide for themselves. Parents are entitled to make such unwise decisions for themselves, but not for children too young to decide for themselves. This was a severe interference with their right of religious freedom, but I agreed with the court that it was a reasonable limit on freedom of religion, a Charter right, which is justified in a free and democratic society.

If religious or cultural beliefs are scientifically proven to a reasonable certainty to cause harm to others, we have a right to interfere to stop it. Even if that looks culturally insensitive.

In a much less serious, case, on classic liberal principles that it is permitted to call COVID-17 the Wuhan Flu, or shut down a wet market, if that will save the lives of others.

As well, in my opinion, we have the right to interfere with Muslims when they interfere with the rights of others or cause them harm without their consent even though that looks like we are trying to impose our cultural views on others. For example, if Muslim father tries to inflict an honour killing on his daughter for disgracing the family, that should not be permitted. I think that one is pretty clear.

The same holds for China. We have the right to try to stop them from harming us even if it might appear that we are culturally insensitive. Other we have allowed political correctness run amok.