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OPINION: Whose freedoms? Whose responsibilities?

'Your rights end where my nose begins'
Upside-down Canadian flag, trailing in the snow, at the gathering place of the 'Freedom Rally.'

Canada has a long history of protest – of Canadians taking to the streets to protest perceived injustices, unfair practices, and passionately held beliefs.

Nothing new there.

And while I fundamentally disagree with anti-vaxxers – vaccines have saved millions of lives from the ravages of everything from smallpox and polio to measles, and there is no proven link between vaccines and autism, folks, although there may be a link between gut health and autism (see ‘Study reveals link between Gut Bacteria and Autism’, University of Western Ontario 2013) – and while I fully support mask mandates as a simple and effective way to slow the spread of disease and protect the vulnerable, I absolutely support the right to protest.

It’s part of Canadian democracy.

But as they say, your rights end where my nose begins.

Threats of violence are unacceptable. Racist rhetoric is unacceptable. So is putting vulnerable populations at risk, and overwhelming our health system.

Holding maskless gatherings during a pandemic goes beyond the foolish, to the irresponsible. Promoting baseless conspiracy absurdities in the face of scientific fact is downright actionable. Taking frustrations with the pandemic out on the very people who have been on the front lines of fighting the disease is despicable.

And there is no justification for displaying the Canadian flag upside down and dragging it in the mud.

Canada does protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens, even if sometimes it needs protest and pressure to ensure that justice is done.

Canadians have freedom of religion, freedom of expression, access to education, a rule of law, free and fair elections, and can gather in protest without the fear of disappearing down a black hole of totalitarian repression – and to claim that the current, temporary public health measures pose a threat to personal freedom equivalent to the worst dictatorships is beyond disingenuous.

It is a lie.

Turning the flag upside-down and dragging it in the mud doesn’t demonstrate disagreement with the government. It shows disrespect for the very fabric of Canadian democracy and freedoms.