Bill C-278 - An Act to prevent the imposition by the federal government of vaccination mandates for employment and travel

An Act to prevent the imposition by the federal government of vaccination mandates for employment and travel

Madam Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House of Commons and represent the people of Niagara West.

I proudly rise to introduce a private member's bill that is important not only to my constituents but also to over six million Canadians. The bill reads: This enactment amends the Financial Administration Act to provide that the Treasury Board may not require as a condition of employment in the federal public administration that a person receive a vaccine against COVID-19. It also amends the Canada Labour Code to provide that regulations may not be made that require, as a term or condition of employment in or in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business, that a person receive a vaccine against COVID-19. In addition, the enactment amends the Aeronautics Act, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to provide that no regulation, order or other instrument made under any of those Acts to prevent the introduction or spread of COVID-19 may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting a person from boarding an aircraft, a train or a vessel solely on the ground that they have not received a vaccine against that disease.

The title of the bill is “an act to prevent the imposition by the federal government of vaccination mandates for employment and travel”, or simply, the “prevention of government-imposed vaccination mandates act.” As I said earlier, this bill is incredibly important to my constituents and more than six million Canadians across the country, more than actually voted for the Liberal government in 2021. This bill is about freedom. It is about reining in the ballooning and intrusive government that got used to interfering in Canadians' lives with extreme outreach. The bill was initially introduced by our Conservative leader, the member for Carleton, and because there was quite a bit of overlap between his bill and my previous bill, we agreed I would go forward with his. I am grateful that his views are aligned with mine on this issue of freedom. After all, freedom is at the core of our Conservative way of thinking and is essential to governing and to government.

This bill, if passed, would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against federal public servants, federally regulated workers and federally regulated travel based on health status. Specifically, it would prohibit the federal government from mandating COVID vaccines for employment and travel.

For far too many Canadians, the last three years has been among the most difficult times in their lives. During the pandemic, many Canadians made the personal choice of remaining unvaccinated, specifically and only with respect to COVID. Their personal choice about their health put them in opposition to the views of the Prime Minister. As a consequence of this, they suffered deeply. They were shut out of their churches, banned from travelling, banned from seeing their loved ones and fired from their jobs. Some Canadians were stripped of their employment insurance benefits.

I know that, to many, this seems like it was long ago, so let me refresh people's memories of these egregious government actions. It was May 2021. While the country was going through the COVID pandemic, the Prime Minister said in an interview, “We are not a country that makes vaccinations mandatory.” The Prime Minister clearly stated that he did not support vaccine mandates in May 2021. That all changed after he saw the political opportunity and after he saw the polls. He saw an opportunity to win a majority government by wedging voters on their personal health choices. He saw that he might gain votes if he divided Canadians and pitted them against each other. He did this by putting in place mandates that restricted the freedoms of Canadians. When Canadians disagreed with the Prime Minister's policy, he appeared on television, calling them misogynists and racists. He also said that they held unacceptable views.

Next, the Liberals introduced the country's first mandates, a divisive, vindictive, stigmatizing and cruel measure. In an instant, millions of Canadians were, because of their personal medical choices, put on unpaid leave and banned from taking federal transportation. This was in addition to being ostracized by friends and strangers alike, sometimes even by their family, as a consequence of the Prime Minister's divisive rhetoric.

Let us just say it how it is. The government saw this as an opportunity for political gain and took it. Even when the world began to open up, the government kept these measures in place, continuing to restrict the personal freedoms of millions of Canadians. Soon after mandates were introduced, an election was called. The Prime Minister ran a campaign largely advocating the violation of some of the most fundamental civil liberties that Canadians have.

Not long after, mandates were extended to members of the Canadian Armed Forces. CAF members who chose to remain unvaccinated were rendered unsuitable for further service and were booted out. This decision caused turmoil among senior CAF members who questioned the legality of this. In a decision of May 30, 2023, the Military Grievances External Review Committee found that this vaccine mandate had breached the charter rights of military personnel. I am sure that, in the coming months, we will see more of this decision when it condemns the government's divisive and unscientific vaccine mandate. The Liberal government looked soldiers in the eye and said they were unsuitable because of their personal health choices. It almost sounds like a dystopian movie plot where the Liberals play the villains, punishing citizens who speak out of line or think for themselves. Quite frankly, that is a movie I would not want to see become a reality, but, unfortunately, in many ways it has become so.

This was just another display of the Prime Minister's wanting more control over Canadians. Big government overreach divided Canadians, turning neighbours and families against one another. To the Liberals, it is always about winning; it is not about Canadians, and certainly not about compassion in difficult times. For those who made different personal medical choices, the government made them outcasts in their communities, firing them from jobs, banning them from travelling and ostracizing them from their friends. Canadians should have the freedom to make personal health decisions for themselves, without social and economic threats from the government. They have the freedom to do so, a freedom that should never, ever be cast aside again. However, if one did not agree with what the Prime Minister decreed was right, one was punished. The scale of this was unprecedented in Canadian history.

Millions of Canadians voiced their worries and concerns, including hundreds to my office. They emailed, called and wrote to me and many of the MPs here in the chamber. One of the stories I listened to was from a young man named Daniel. Daniel chose to remain unvaccinated because of his own personal fears of a fairly new vaccine, especially since he had had a bad reaction to one before. Because of his personal health decision, he was scoffed at and treated differently. He watched in horror as different levels of government treated Canadians who were unvaccinated like they were some sort of criminals, all because of the example of, and the pressure to fall in line exerted by, the Prime Minister and his Liberal government. Unscientific mandates kept Daniel from seeing his friends, his family and especially his grandparents. He could not go watch a hockey game with his grandfather or go to a restaurant to celebrate his sister's birthday. Most of all, he could not see his grandmother while she sat alone in a nursing home, unable to spend the holidays with the family. Daniel spoke up and sent me a letter because he was inspired by what our current leader and many other caucus members had said. He says that he will be forever thankful that, on this side of the House, we speak up for what we truly believe in.

What happened to Daniel was not a one-time thing. I personally know of a friend incredibly close to me who also suffered. As a father, he watched as his child was banned from playing basketball, a sport they both love. His son was told he was not accepted; this was not as a player on the court, but as a person, all because of one personal choice. Outside of sports, his son was kept from playing with his friends and was even denied entry to stores, where he was forced to wait outside in -40° weather.

These Canadians were not hateful. They were not conspiracy theorists or science deniers, like the Liberals were so disgustingly saying at the time. These are labels, might I add, that some Liberals still repeat. These were good folks who just wanted to live their lives without government forcefully telling them what to do. All they asked was to be left alone, and because of that simple request, they experienced hardship like they never had before, hardship that was facilitated by legislation, and rhetoric sparked by the Liberal government.

The Liberals took not just the jobs of these Canadians; they also took their livelihoods and their reputations. One can see this with the government's invoking the Emergencies Act, where Liberals accused protesters of being arsonists and thieves. In reality, Ottawa Police Service had unequivocally said there was no connection between the fires and protesters. Despite this, the Minister of Public Safety, the leader of the NDP and Liberal members like the member for Pickering—Uxbridge shamefully used these false stories to justify their use of the Emergencies Act.

This misinformation and disinformation was peddled not just by government officials. The media, mostly the CBC, which is a good pal of the Liberals, tried to claim that Canadian-led fundraisers supporting the protests were being funded by foreign agents in Russia and the U.S. Later, they had to walk back those remarks because the overwhelming majority of donations, close to 90%, came from Canadians who were upset about how their fellow Canadians were being treated. The legacy media, the Liberals and the NDP did not care about the facts. All they relied on was unconfirmed online chatter. They were desperate to cling to something.

In August 2021, the front page of the Toronto Star had a now infamous opinion piece quoting the line, “I have no empathy left for the willfully unvaccinated. Let them die.” This was one of the lowest points in our country, to see something like that happen to folks, some of whom live in my riding. In January 2022, a Quebec judge ruled that a father could not see his son after the father made a post on social media that was critical of vaccine mandates. The judge labelled him a conspiracy theorist who was too dangerous to see his own son. There is even more.

Not even students were safe from being targeted. Across Canada, universities and colleges banned students from going to classes or participating in campus events. Students' chances of graduation and access to quality education were put in jeopardy because of these mandates.

Canadians were being singled out for their personal medical choices and punished because of the hateful rhetoric of the Liberal government. While protesters were outside protesting for their freedoms in the freezing cold of Ottawa, the Liberals sat in their cushy warm offices, freezing Canadians' bank accounts. The Liberals kept them from buying food, paying rent and paying for utility bills and other essentials. They wanted to paint the protesters as evil, so they falsely told Canadians the protesters were ransacking offices, another complete fabrication to justify their complete and total overreach.

While the Liberals covered their ears and called people names, I was listening to people. I knew that compassion, understanding and empathy were the way out of this Liberal-created crisis. I listened to the stories of Canadians in my communities and across the country. These stories also inspired members of the Prime Minister's own Liberal Party to speak up.

In February 2022, the member for Louis-Hébert said he was uncomfortable with how his government was handling the pandemic. He pointed out how the government had changed and taken a more stigmatizing and divisive approach to its pandemic policy. He reminded the Prime Minister to not demonize people who just disagreed with his policies. The member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin also agreed, saying that there were more in the Liberal caucus who felt the same way.

With all of this, the Liberals set an egregious example to the provinces and municipalities. Premiers and municipal politicians across the country felt forced to get in line and follow Ottawa's lead. If they did not, the legacy media, so closely aligned with the Liberals on almost everything, would have made them pay a heavy political price. Clearly this was about control.

Thankfully, members of our Conservative Party stood up and spoke their minds, including our leader. He stood up for the freedom of personal choice. We want Canada to be the freest country on earth. We must ensure that Canadians will never lose their medical freedom. I will never let people forget how the Liberal government trampled on the rights of Canadians for three long years, how the Prime Minister treated them during that time or how he froze Canadians' bank accounts, got them fired, stripped them of unemployment insurance benefits and banned them from travelling.

The Liberals did all these things to achieve one goal: political success. The Liberals capitalized on fear and made their opponents their scapegoats. These millions of Canadians deserve a voice, and they deserve accountability from the government. Only Conservatives will give these Canadians a voice and stop excessive government overreach so that they can take back control of their lives. Only the Conservatives will bring home freedom.

The COVID-19 policies put in place by the Liberal government were simply too much. It was not right. We all know that, or at least I hope we do.

We cannot go back to firing people for a personal medical choice, something so intimate to Canadians. What Canadians choose for their health is their freedom and theirs only. We cannot go back to stripping people of their employment insurance benefits because of a personal medical choice. We cannot go back to prohibiting people from travelling or working because they made a decision for themselves. It was cruel. There was no compassion for our fellow Canadians who may have thought a bit differently than the government. It violated the rights of Canadians for way too long and without any scientific basis.

I hope all members in the House will show compassion, empathy and understanding by supporting this bill and making sure that our fellow Canadians are never treated with such disdain by their government ever again.