Diversity is a reality in Canadian public schools. Teachers and students do not all share the same race or ethnicity, belong to the same religion, or hold the same beliefs. Nor should they.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has often said that diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths. This is why public schools celebrate diversity and accommodate differences. Parents are more likely to place their children in the public school system if they are supported and validated by their school.
Public schools need to serve all families, not just those whose beliefs are in line with the beliefs of the majority of people. This is why we should be very concerned with the recent push for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines in schools. For example, each of the four major teacher unions in Ontario has called for vaccines to be made mandatory for all teachers and students.
Teacher unions in other provinces such as Manitoba and Saskatchewan have issued similar demands. According to these unions, mandatory vaccines are needed to keep students and teachers safe this fall.
It is extremely unusual for any union to demand unilateral changes in the working conditions of its own members. Obviously, these teacher unions have decided that they no longer want to represent anyone who wants to live without vaccinations.
It’s not hard to see why.
As vaccination rates rise across Canada, people who oppose COVID-19 vaccines have become increasingly unpopular. This is because vaccines are the key to ending this pandemic. As more people get vaccinated, it will be easier to get back to normalcy. Thus, it makes sense that everyone should be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.
However, in our zeal to promote vaccines, we must be careful not to jeopardize the rights of people with differing opinions. The fact that people who oppose COVID-19 vaccines or other vaccines are only a small minority of Canadians doesn’t mean that their beliefs don’t matter. In fact, our commitment to diversity is tested when we have small and unpopular minorities.
Under the law, all Canadians, including students and teachers, have the right to make decisions about their own medical treatment. If a person wants to refuse life-saving blood transfusions or forgo surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, it is their choice—no matter how erroneous that decision may be.
The same is the case with vaccination.
It is also important to note that changing one’s conditions of employment based on vaccination status is significantly more drastic than limiting their ability to attend a football game, go to a casino, or board an airplane. Encouraging people to get vaccinated is one thing. Forcing them is another matter.
Furthermore, making vaccines mandatory is one of the safest ways to overcome the hesitation of vaccines.
The good news is that vaccination rates in Canada are among the highest in the world. More than 80 percent of eligible Canadians have received at least one shot while more than 70 percent have been fully vaccinated. This would significantly blunt the effects of the fourth wave as those vaccinated are much less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
More than a century ago, Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier famously employed the “sunny way” approach to governance. Based on Aesop’s legend “The North Wind and the Sun”, Laurier knew that it made far more sense to win over the people through persuasion than using the blunt arm of government coercion.
Governments of all political stripes would do well today to follow Laurier’s example. We will all benefit from an approach that brings people together rather than isolates them.
When it comes to vaccines, let’s let students, teachers, and other public school staff make their own decisions about medical treatment. They may not make the right decisions, but that is the price we pay for living in a diverse and democratic country.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times