Vaccines: Freedom and Responsibility

Warren (Smokey) Thomas in a blue suit standing at a podiu
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With freedom comes responsibility. The simple saying has taken on a whole new meaning during the COVID-19 crisis, as public health officials continue to stress the importance of getting vaccinated.

You’ve likely heard some folks talking about freedom – many of them on American television, but with plenty here in Canada too. There’s always one thing they seem to forget, and that’s responsibility.

No matter how you slice it, we’re social beings; we’re not meant to live in isolation. COVID-19 has proven this. But, as people living together in a society, there are fundamental social rules, laws and principles to follow – it’s our social contract.

Think of it as the basic rules in the game of life. By living together, we put limits on many so-called freedoms for the betterment of our society. We wear seatbelts to reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths. We obey speed limits and stop signs. We don’t smoke indoors in public spaces.

We accept that, sometimes, our freedom to do something infringes on someone else’s freedom from harm. And we craft rules to find the appropriate balance and protect one another. It’s not perfect, but it’s our collective responsibility, and the foundation of our society.

And now, with COVID-19, we’re being asked to get vaccinated to protect our families, our communities, our country, and quite frankly, the entire globe. Yes, we have rights. But we also have responsibilities, and getting vaccinated is one of them.

At OPSEU/SEFPO, we take our responsibility to members very seriously. We’ve worked hard to keep our members safe, and we’ve fought hard – and often succeeded – in having those in high-risk workplaces added to the vaccine priority list, including those on the front lines of our health care and education systems, in correctional facilities and our Ministry of Labour inspectors.

This virus has proven, in a new light, just how interconnected we are; not only in the way it has spread globally, but in the clear and obvious way we must overcome it. All of us must do our part.

We live in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. Migration and advanced technology allow us to move more freely and quickly. The same goes for COVID-19. That’s why our responsibilities extend far beyond our borders – because this virus won’t be contained by an imaginary line in the sand.

So, let’s listen to science, not ignorance. Let’s listen to the experts who’ve studied this virus and researched the vaccine – not the YouTube naysayers.

Former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt once said that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry or out of a job aren’t truly free. With COVID-19, it’s clear that economic security can’t be achieved until we are vaccinated.

While people love pointing to the Charter as justification against masks, lockdowns and the vaccine, I see the exact opposite. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants everyone the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Isn’t it obvious that there can be no liberty or security without life itself?

So, let’s get our shots. It’s the only way to beat this pandemic.

With freedom comes responsibility, and with the vaccine comes freedom.

In Solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU/SEFPO President
@OPSEUSmokey
facebook.com/OPSEUSmokey

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