Should vaccine passports be implemented in Ontario? I don’t think so.
After much public debate, the government of Ontario has decided to implement a vaccine passport that will be required in select settings. The list of affected settings includes restaurants, bars, gyms, concerts and many others. This has been introduced, according to the government, to slow the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on hospitals and general safety of the public.
All arguments for or against vaccine passports seem to fall into two distinct camps. On one hand there are those who believe safety is paramount. These people are happy to give up some freedom in exchange for safety, enforced by the government.
In this context, these people are happy to enforce restrictions on movement or engagement in public activities if the potential safety of the general public outweighs the potential harm of reducing freedom. Vaccine passports fall squarely into this camp for people who buy into this line of reasoning.
Then there are those on the other side, opposed to vaccine passports. I will state plainly here that I count myself as a member of this group. I am not comfortable that the government has taken the position that it will now ask for a vaccine passport to enter a number of public gatherings. I believe it restricts freedom while it also does little to promote safety.
There are those who will suggest that only the unvaccinated are at issue here. That is simply not the case. The unvaccinated are most affected by the legislation, because they will now be restricted from gatherings outright.
But having to show proof of vaccination to enter a particular venue is also a restriction on freedom for the vaccinated. The simple fact that even the vaccinated should be concerned can be best understood in the comparable context of mass surveillance.
According to the line of thinking that states vaccinated people need not be concerned about vaccine passports, people ought not be scared of mass surveillance if they simply engage in no criminal activities.
I mean, why should you care if someone is watching if you have nothing to hide? Why should you oppose vaccine passports if you are already vaccinated? Well, because restriction on freedom is still a restriction on freedom even if you are not currently affected. Societies that are comfortable taking away freedom will have trouble knowing where to stop.
I also oppose vaccine passports on account of not believing that the government is always right. The government is not always a benevolent actor. It is capable of making mistakes and overreaching its original mandates. It is also capable of wielding its incredible power in terrible ways.
I am not saying the government in this case is evil. But I am saying I have read too much history to believe that vaccine passports are a perfect idea that can never go wrong.
Where does it stop from here? If there is a far less deadly virus can the government implement this kind of passport?
The question of determining “the line” in this case is much trickier than many are willing to admit. But if we start here, you never know how far they might go.