Dr. Julie Ponesse is a professor of ethics who has taught at Ontario’s Huron University College for 20 years. She was placed on leave and banned from accessing her campus due to the vaccine mandate. She presented at the The Faith and Democracy Series on October 28, 2021. Dr. Ponesse has now taken on a new role with The Democracy Fund, a registered Canadian charity aimed at advancing civil liberties, where she serves as the pandemic ethics scholar.
Brown Stone –
Think back to a couple of years ago—fall 2019, let’s say. What were you doing then? What was your life like? What did you care about? What did you most fear? What DID YOU IMAGINE ABOUT the FUTURE?
That’s the person I would like to talk to for the next 15 minutes, + I’ll begin with my own story: At the end I’ll have a FAVOUR to ask plus a little SECRET to share.
In the fall of 2019, I was a professor of ethics and ancient philosophy; I taught students critical thinking + the importance of self-reflection, how to ask good questions and evaluate evidence, how to learn from the past and why democracy requires civic virtue.
Fast forward to September 16, 2021 when I received a “termination with cause” letter after I questioned, and refused to comply, with my employer’s vaccine mandate. I was dismissed for doing exactly what I had been hired to do. I was a professor of ethics questioning what I take to be an unethical demand. You don’t have to look very hard to see the irony.
Canada is governed by laws which are based on ethics. You could say that ethics are the bedrock beneath our democracy.
“The right to determine what shall or shall not be done with one’s own body, and to be free from non-consensual medical treatment, is a right deeply rooted in our common law.” These aren’t my words; they are the words of Justice Sydney Robins of the Ontario Court of Appeal.
With very few exceptions, each person’s body is considered inviolate in Canadian law, and this is the underlying ethos of the Nuremberg Code, a promise to humanity that we would never again endorse uninformed, non-voluntary medical decision-making, even for the patient’s own good, even for the sake of the public good.
By definition, vaccine mandates are coercive immunization strategies: in the absence of coercion — the threat of a loss of employment, for example — people would not voluntarily agree to do what the mandate is trying to achieve!
Employers are holding our careers hostage, and removing our participation in the economy and in public life. Their justification is that “we are in a pandemic,” and we must therefore relinquish autonomy over our bodies for the sake of the public good.
So, let’s talk about autonomy and the public good for a minute.
In emergencies, the Parliament and provincial legislatures have a limited power to pass laws that violate certain Charter rights for the sake of the public good. But, to justify those violations, vaccine mandates would need to meet a very high threshold: COVID-19 would, for example, need to be a highly virulent pathogen for which there is no adequate treatment, and the vaccines would need to be demonstrably effective and safe.
The current state of affairs in Canada meets neither of these criteria.
Consider these facts:
1) COVID-19 has an infection fatality rate not even 1% that of smallpox (and it poses even less risk to children)
2) a number of safe, highly effective pharmaceuticals exist to treat it (including monoclonal antibodies, Ivermectin, fluvoxamine, Vitamin D and Zinc), AND
3) The vaccines have reported more adverse events (including innumerable deaths) than every other vaccine on the marketover the last 30 years.
In light of these facts, I have so many questions:
Why are the vaccinated granted vaccine passports and access to public spaces, when the Director of the CDC has stated that the COVID-19 vaccines cannot prevent transmission?
Why is vaccination the ONLY mitigation strategy when emerging evidence (including a recent Harvard study) shows no discernible relationship between the vaccination rate and new cases?
Why does our government continue to withhold Ivermectin as a recommended treatment when the U-S National Institutes of Health supports it, and when the state of Uttar Pradesh in India distributed it to its 230 million people, reducing its COVID death rate to almost zero? How has India surpassed Canada in Health Care?
Why are we about to vaccinate 5 year olds when COVID poses to them less risk than the potential vaccine reactions AND while there is NO effective monitoring system for the vaccines?
Why are we focused on the narrow benefits of vaccine-induced immunity when real-world studies show natural immunity is more protective, more potent, and more enduring?
Why do we shame the “vaccine hesitant” and not the “vaccine adamant”?
“Why,” as a nurse recently asked, “do the protected need to be protected from the unprotected by forcing the unprotected to use the protection that did not protect the protected in the first place?”
By every measure and from every angle, this is a ‘house of cards’ about to crumble
But the question that interests me is why hasn’t it crumbled already? Why are these questions not the headlines of every major newspaper in Canada every day?
Have the right people simply not seen the right data? Is it just a clerical error…on a global scale?
What has happened to our leadership? Our Prime Minister leads the battle cry: “Don’t think you’re getting on a plane,” he threatened. Campaign promises are now segregationist public policy. Our government encourages us daily to be divisive and hateful.
How did things change so drastically? How did we Canadians change so drastically?
It’s my observation that we are facing a pandemic not just of a virus but a pandemic of compliance and complacency, in a culture of silence, censorship, and institutionalized bullying.
MainStreamd Media likes to say that we are fighting a “war of information” — that misinformation, and even questioning and doubt, have plagued this pandemic.
But it is not only information that is being weaponized, in this war; it is a person’s right to think for herself.
I have heard it said “well I don’t know that much about viruses” so I shouldn’t really have an opinion. but…
The issue is not whether you know more about virology than our public health officials; the issue is why we aren’t all calling them out for not being willing to engage with the evidence and debate someone who has a different opinion.
We should be calling not for an outcome but for a process to be reestablished.
Without that process we have no science, we have no democracy.
Without that process, we are in a kind of moral war.
But, the wars of the past have had clear and distinct boundaries: the east and the west, patriots and government.
The war we find ourselves in today is one of infiltration instead of invasion, intimidation instead of free choice, of psychological forces so insidious we come to believe the ideas are our own and that we are doing our part by giving up our rights.
As a wise colleague recently said “This is a war about the role of government. It is about our freedom to think and ask questions, and about whether individual autonomy can be downgraded to a conditional privilege or whether it remains a right. It is a war about whether you are to remain a citizen or become a subject. It is about who owns you… you or the state.”
It is about where we draw the line.
This isn’t about liberals and conservatives, pro-and anti-vaxxers, experts and lay people. Everyone should care about truth, everyone should care about the scientific and democratic processes, everyone should care about each another.
There is, I would argue, little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our freedom to debate, to criticize, to demand evidence for what our government asks of us does not survive with it.
As someone born in the 70s, I never thought THIS would be a war I would have to fight, that the right to bodily autonomy, to the free and transparent exchange of information would be at risk.
Think for a minute about the the most unimaginable harms of the last century — the ‘final solution,’ South African apartheid, the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides. Aren’t we supposed to remember atrocities of the past so we don’t repeat them? Well, memories are short, family chains are broken, new worries eclipse the old ones, and the lessons of the past fade into ancient history only to be forgotten.