By Leslyn Lewis
Member of Parliament for Haldimand-Norfolk
THE conversation around COVID, Vaccines, Vax-passes, and everything surrounding it has become incredibly divisive and emotional.
The fact that we have become emotional makes a lot of sense. After all, virtually all of us have known someone who has been impacted negatively in the last year. There are strong opinions on both sides of the mandatory vaccinations debate, and it is quite likely that those who oppose mandates may have had a bad experience with COVID, a vaccine, or are medically unable to take the vaccine. Similarly, those who support it may have lost a family member or friend during the pandemic or are worn down from 18 months of restrictions and want to get on with their lives.
In emotionally divisive times like this, it is that we not only present solutions to problems, but that we encourage people to ask questions about those solutions without the fear of being ostracized and demonized.
Several people have argued that I should not have an opinion on the vaccine mandate issue because my “doctorate is not in medicine”. To that, I simply say that my doctorate is in law, and as this is a discussion on “rights” it is indeed a conversation that I feel is very much within my purview as someone trained in the law. In addition, parents without medical training are still entitled to ask questions about medical procedures involving their children and as their Member of Parliament, I am obligated to listen to their concerns and find ways to address their questions.
This debate is truly about whether we as a society are going to respect a parents right to exercise the ultimate responsible for the well-being of their children. I believe in strong communities, I believe in helping our neighbours, and so do the parents that have contacted me to find resources about COVID vaccines and the best health options for their kids during the pandemic. Many of these parents are double vaccinated and were shocked that their simple inquiries got them labelled as “anti-vaxxers”. After all, a few months ago, the media listed reasons why children under 12 could not be vaccinated, so it is natural for parents to ask what has changed.
There is a large and inappropriate leap from loving your neighbour, to telling them that they don’t have the right to respect the personal and confidential health recommendations of their family doctor.
I have received calls from people all over Haldimand-Norfolk and indeed all over Canada who have taken the vaccine or given it to their children, and some even went against their doctor’s advice because they felt pressured by society, or coerced through the threat of losing their jobs.
Parents know what’s best for their children, and governments can never replace the protection of loving parents. Let’s stop judging each other for private medical conversations. Let’s begin leaning towards giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Believing one another that we want what is best for our children and will do everything in our power to care for them. Let’s remember that not everyone’s situation is exactly the same.
Our society is founded on respecting the rights of parents to make the best decisions for their children, and for each citizen to make individual choices for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Canada is a great country, filled with good people. We will not all agree all the time, but I will never stop believing, and trusting my neighbours with their freedom.
Published online November 16, 2021