Maximilian C. Forte
“Two weeks to flatten the curve,” is what we heard across Canada1 just after March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization unilaterally declared a global “pandemic” according to new criteria developed in 2009 that emphasized transmissibility over lethality.2 We are now approaching two years of a crisis that is routinely and deceptively blamed on “Covid”. Politicians, public health officials, and the mass media have made persistent pronouncements that tended towards the inflation of grim numbers and the exaggeration of threats.3
The State of Emergency and its Consequences
Building on expanded threat perception, authorities have deliberately promoted fear, induced panic, and created stress.4 With the public suffering an epidemic of fear bordering on mass psychosis,5 states have multiplied and escalated the number and types of restrictions, few of which have the support of even a single published scientific study6: quarantining the healthy; school closures; shutting down small businesses; travel bans and internment of returning citizens; masking; social distancing; fines; curfews; vaccine passports7; and now, mandatory vaccination campaigns that threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands across Canada, including students, support staff, and professors, and impeding non-vaccinated Canadians from leaving the country.8 In the case of Quebec, such measures have been advanced under a State of Emergency deployed in accordance with the Public Health Act,9 which has seen the “emergency” renewed every seven days. Since the “emergency” was first declared on March 13, 2020, it was renewed 84 times (to October 27, 2021), and continues being renewed without consultation and approval by the National Assembly.10 On each occasion, the Government of Quebec has failed to explain the nature or even the existence of a situation that merits classification as an “emergency”.11
By displacing the political onto the medical, in biologizing and thus naturalizing political acts, both governments and the media typically assign blame to “Covid,” the “pandemic,” or the “unvaccinated,” to justify authoritarian emergency measures and to rationalize the ensuing social upheaval. But the virus is just a virus. The virus is neither a politician, a legislator, an economic adviser, a public health official, a corporate CEO, nor is it a media executive. The virus has not been “managed”: it has been worked.
The social, economic, political, medical, psychological, and cultural damage wrought by emergency measures, though inadequately documented and tallied in Canada, appears to be both vast and ongoing. At least 36 studies explain why our unnecessarily extended period of lockdowns not only failed to control the virus or lower mortality, but may even have increased excess mortality.12 Quebec’s Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, publicly acknowledged the impacts of the emergency on delayed treatments and surgeries, often for illnesses far more severe than Covid.13 The health system’s lopsided emphasis on Covid, coupled with fear that kept many patients with severe illnesses away from hospitals and clinics, created such a backlog of surgeries and treatments that emergency rooms exploded far beyond capacity by the summer of 2021, as reported Covid infections plummeted. Quebec’s Ministry of Health estimated that up to 4,000 people have gone undiagnosed with cancer as a result of a sharp decline in mammograms, pap smears and colorectal cancer screenings.14 Across Canada, projected cancer cases are expected to surge in the thousands.15 During the lockdowns, deaths caused by opioid overdoses rose by 88% in 2020 when compared to 2019.16 Alcohol abuse, suicides, and even homicides in domestic settings all increased substantially. Statistics Canada reported that during this emergency period, deaths from “accidental poisonings” (substance abuse) reached a new high, while the numbers for deaths caused by alcohol abuse, and drug use all increased, particularly for younger Canadians.17 StatCan noted that “the economic, social, and psychological impacts” as well as “the public-health measures in place may have played a role in increasing alcohol use”.18 In North America, lockdowns had a disproportionate impact on minority youths in terms of education and employment.19 Families with children at home reported dramatic degrees of deteriorated mental health.20 The economic devastation wrought by the lockdowns further increased the social, psychological, and medical harms.21 In Montreal, the homeless population doubled in size just from March 2020 to October 2021.22 Canada’s federal debt increased by 66%; provinces and even most universities also posted vastly increased deficits; and, hundreds of thousands of retail businesses were expected to permanently close.23 Both the savings and the ability to save for working-class Canadians simply vanished, and personal debt levels skyrocketed; women and minorities were among those hit hardest.24
How is public health served by spreading fear, creating stress, inducing anxiety, and terminating the livelihoods of those who do not comply with arbitrary and indiscriminate measures? What kind of public health is it that assaults the dignity of those to be saved, creating divisions, escalating tensions and conflict? We have certainly come a long way from “two weeks to flatten the curve”. Today, federal employees, healthcare workers, and educators across Canada are being suspended and fired, sentenced to a form of social and economic internal exile, thus effectively rendered aliens in a country which also traps them within its borders. Citizens are now effectively criminalized based on their medical status.
All of the devastation, displacement, and divisions have been to what end? What is it about the nature of this particular virus that makes it so spectacularly special that extreme measures are not only said to be warranted, but must also be continually multiplied and extended? Why are these “public health” measures so narrowly focused on only one specific solution—universal “vaccination”—when that “solution” has been shown to solve so little at the core of this crisis?
Encouraged by government and the media to conflate the two, most Canadians seem to have trouble remembering the difference between transmissibility (i.e., infectiousness) and lethality, such that any report of “cases” immediately sparks fears of impending and generalized death. The appearance of a “case” in an institution is called an “outbreak,” an alarmist term that inspires fear. Yet it is still true that official statistics reveal that this particular coronavirus, with its non-distinctive symptoms, is responsible for the deaths mostly of the very elderly, and even then those with advanced co-morbidities. In Canada as a whole, 63% of reported Covid deaths occurred among those aged 80 years or more; that number increases to 83% when we include those aged 60 years or more.25
This virus was never a lethal threat to the general population, but it has been governed as if it were. The global survival rate for Covid, for persons under the age of 70, is 99.83%; others report that it is as high as 99.95% (without “vaccination”), and for those under 45 years of age the infection fatality rate is almost zero.26 For the vast majority of the infected, 76.5%, Covid produces no symptoms at all, and for 86.1% no symptoms specific to Covid; for most of the rest, the symptoms are mild.27 The Norwegian government and the UK parliament have both recognized that Covid has fallen in lethality when compared with the seasonal flu.28 What then is the medical basis for instituting emergency measures, imposed on the total population? In early 2020, a few national leaders declared a “war on the virus”—but how do the facts of the virus justify use of tools of war, such as a state of emergency?
Throughout this crisis, premised on the generalization of the threat of death, we have nonetheless seen a differential and selective valuation of deaths.29 Death, rather than the possibilities for normal life, has been greatly emphasized. Regardless of co-morbidities, those who died with Covid were almost always reported as “Covid deaths,” even if Covid was not the cause of death. Yet, when persons have died after receiving injections, their deaths are usually attributed to co-morbidities, and they are not publicly reported by the media or state spokespersons as “vaccine deaths”. Some deaths, we discovered, matter more than others.
Having succeeded in spreading generalized fear of “Covid death,” the authorities have singled out that one “solution” of theirs: inoculation of the entire population, regardless of age, health, or natural immunity.30 They have denied effective early treatment of symptoms. They have obstinately ignored the fact that natural immunity has been proven to offer longer-lasting, broader and stronger protection than the current crop of novel gene therapies.31 We have been told, with absolute conviction, that these experimental gene therapies are “safe and effective”.32 Less assuring, however, has been the authorities’ refusal to share trial data with scientists.33 Doctors and scientists who question the “vaccine” dogma are censored, silenced, suspended, or fired, even as hundreds of thousands of doctors and healthcare workers worldwide34 have precisely detailed why these novel therapies are neither safe nor effective,35 with abundant empirical support and a growing number of published studies.36 Between the US and UK alone, nearly 20,000 persons have already died from the injectables, and more than two million people have suffered severe adverse reactions, according to officially published data.37 Yet the injectables themselves offer, at best, a 1.3% reduction in absolute risk of becoming ill from Covid. “Herd immunity” via “vaccination” is clearly impossible,38 particularly when the “vaccines” in question provide no sterilizing immunity, and when the virus has ample natural reservoirs in the wider animal population.
Given that the “fully vaccinated” can still be infected and transmit the virus among themselves, the stated logic for the domestic “vaccine passport” system has been nullified39—yet the mandate remains in place. Even with such mandates in place on US college campuses, with almost all students, staff and faculty injected, “outbreaks” have occurred.40 It should now be obvious that the “vaccine passport” is not a public health measure designed to “protect” people and “save lives”. Instead, it is a political measure designed to maximize control and foment divisions among the wider population, deflecting blame away from the state and toward the new dangerous Other, the “unvaccinated”.41
Questions for Academia
Universities in Quebec and across Canada have internalized the “vaccine passport” system, notwithstanding public knowledge of the facts as shown above. They have done so even when aware of the differential impact on religious and ethnic minorities.42 Institutions that have adopted principles of “equity, diversity, and inclusion,” have failed the first real test of their policies. In Canada, as in the US, Black and Indigenous communities are among the most “vaccine hesitant” or “vaccine resistant” of all ethnic groups.43 However, given that the “war on the virus” has become a de facto war on the people, a larger segment of the national population has been created as a new minority suffering discrimination, one that has been as stigmatized as it has been caricatured.44 Where do academics stand here?
If “vaccination” was intended as a means of exiting the WHO’s declared pandemic, that has clearly not happened. Is it in fact intended as an exit, or as a gateway to something else? This is just one of many questions that academics should have been addressing, instead of cowering in fear before Covid, deferring to political authority, and clamouring for still more draconian restrictions.
As academics who have committed ourselves to ethics, integrity, and honesty, do we not see anything problematic in what is happening before our very eyes? Are we not disturbed by what is being committed in our name, for this alleged “common good” which none of us were ever called upon to define? What “common good” is it that thrives on coercion, exclusion, and works towards the monopolistic profits of Pfizer, which has an established criminal history,45 and Moderna, which has never before produced a vaccine?
Whether one is “adequately vaccinated” or not—according to the shifting standards and definitions of the moment—is not the core issue that should concern us. What should concern us is that the legal rights of all citizens are being transformed into temporary privileges; that coercion trumps democratic participation; that key institutions—including academic ones—are being rapidly conscripted for political purposes, and their basic missions are being undermined and distorted.
While many believe and assert that a “public health emergency” must limit basic human freedoms, it is precisely when faced by a real or alleged emergency that we need to be most careful and protective of human rights. Basic human rights are inalienable, and cannot be “suspended” because of any war, disaster, or other emergency.46 Bodily autonomy,47 informed consent, and by extension not being subjected to invasive testing or genetic treatment, are among the key rights which have been suspended or violated.48 Rights of conscience, as guided by religious and spiritual beliefs, along with the right to political beliefs and freedom of expression, must also be protected.49
Did we as scholars anticipate living in a country where our universities would purge tenured professors, fire support staff, and expel registered students (even escorting them off campus in front of other students), because of their health status, their innate biological characteristics, and their desire to preserve their privacy and bodily autonomy free from discrimination? When did we become comfortable with violating the right to an education and the right to work? How did we come to accept this discrimination, this deliberate segregation of a category of persons from the rest of society? Did we predict that one day we would see a demarcated group of Canadians being targeted not just for segregation, discrimination, and demonization, but that they would also be denied their livelihoods? Did we imagine that leaders, from the Prime Minister to the Premier, would verbally assault this same group and use the most threatening and dehumanizing language against it? This is happening, right now, all around us, right in front of us. Now that history has found us, how do we meet history? Do we even stop to take notice? When are we going to stand up and speak out?
In Canadian universities, many if not most scholars and students are not living up to goals of offering critical and independent perspectives on a crisis of momentous proportions. Ethics, freedom of choice, privacy, and democracy, have not been defended by our universities. Instead what has risen is a culture of silence, with some willingly reinforcing an instant orthodoxy that could only have been produced by widespread fear and unconditional trust in the authorities. Is this what we expect from our universities? Should students and professional scholars not be dedicated to developing independent, critical analytical abilities? Should they be trusting the authorities to the point of silently acquiescing with or even staunchly upholding their edicts and decrees? By not defending basic ethical principles of bodily autonomy, informed consent, and freedom of choice, and by even going as far as denying these rights, universities are actively engaged in violating human rights that are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and by international human rights law. By not challenging mandatory “vaccination” and “vaccine passports,” we allow a ready-made canon, furnished by the state and media, to supplant our own investigation and knowledge production. Worse yet, by directly engaging in censoring and silencing scientists, and by allowing intimidation and mobbing, universities in Canada appear to be engaging in intellectual, moral, and ethical suicide. What kind of university will emerge from this process? Can we even properly speak of a “university” in such a context?
In our universities, we have looked on silently as the media, backed by powerful private interests and our own bureaucrats, actively censor fellow scientists’ research and stifle critical questioning, to the benefit of transnational corporations such as Pfizer.50 We have watched tenure being invalidated, rendered null and void according to the whims of the state, as the terms and conditions of our employment are radically altered to depend—in clear violation of the Privacy Act—on disclosure of our medical status.51 Professors have been involuntarily deputized as auxiliary police forces, made to enforce mask mandates in their classrooms. Simply questioning the logic of such measures, and asking to see the scientific evidence that supports them, risks censure for “spreading misinformation”. Faculty unions have turned against faculty who resist the mandates, while most faculty either remain silent, or loudly support harsh restrictions.52 Academic freedom is in greater peril in Canada today than it ever has been.53 We have witnessed science succumb to the dictates of politics. As one concerned epidemiologist observed, with obvious restraint: “there will be lasting consequences from mingling political partisanship and science during the management of a public-health crisis”.54
In both medicine and international human rights law, the principle of voluntary and prior informed consent is fundamental and inviolable. Yet without adequate information, consent cannot be informed. The denial of informed consent is a grave violation of human rights, as established under multiple instruments of international human rights law. Coercion is also a denial of informed consent. Penalties, punishments, and threats offer the same kind of “choice” that is offered during the psychological torture of detainees under abusive interrogation. It is strange medicine that restricts family members from gatherings, worshippers from communing, workers from working—that creates unemployment and targets dissenting persons’ ability to clothe, house, and feed their families. “Vaccine hesitant” adults are treated as children, with medicine forced down their throats by a paternalistic state. Even if we had been dealing with actual children, in Canada we were supposed to have moved past our history of such abusive treatment. Mandates and restrictions have been overbearing, indiscriminate, redundant, authoritarian, arrogant, and punitive. Our strange medicine is the outcome of the politics of dispossession, which has reached such an extreme that it would have people sign off the rights to their immune system to a giant pharmaceutical corporation with a criminal record.
In such an environment, “vaccine refusal” is treated as tantamount to treason, an expression of “selfishness,” and a “threat to the community”. Yet a more sober and considered view would highlight the realization that, “mandatory vaccination amounts to discrimination against healthy, innate biological characteristics, which goes against the established ethical norms and is also defeasible a priori”.55
Independent, rational, critical analysis that seeks truth has been supplanted by deference to authority and its alternative “science”: the science of politicians, technocrats, the media, and lawyers. This alternative science has us thinking what was previously unimaginable, and doing what was previously unacceptable: never do you quarantine the healthy; never do you vaccinate the immune; never do you inject new treatments into children who do not need them;56 never do you vaccinate during a pandemic; and, never do you try new drugs on pregnant women.57 As we think the unthinkable, collaborate with the unimaginable, and support the unsupportable, we as academics are conspiring with those who demand we assert the unquestionable.
This has to change, and it has to change now.