Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel | Quebec’s domestic vaccine passport, a sanitary “safe space” that marks an authoritarian turn

The following interview was conducted by Simon Leduc with Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel, a French Canadian essayist, journalist and columnist.

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Do you think that the vaccine passport that the Legault government wants to put in place will be useful against COVID-19?

JBG: No. Or very little in terms of epidemiology. It is first and foremost a measure to reassure the most frightened part of the population. People want to feel like they can go shopping and eat out in safety. We are mostly in the order of perception, absolute security being the new utopia. Safe spaces don’t exist in reality.

Basically, the measure offers a false sense of security. It is a political measure aimed at pandering to an electorate that is afraid, but that would still like to resume some of its activities.

Is this a discriminatory measure?

JBG: Discrimination is the fact of treating groups of people differently based on criteria such as gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political ideas, etc. Here, it is clear that the vaccine passport discriminates on the basis of two things: medical status and political beliefs because opposition to the vaccine is often a political choice.

While some people are convinced that the vaccine is designed to kill or poison them, others are more opposed to the subjugation it seems to represent. In other words, they are less opposed to the vaccine itself than to the “vaccine ideology”. The nuance is important.

To deny that the measure will create a new form of discrimination would be dishonest. This fact alone does not discredit the measure (there will always be forms of discrimination in society), but its advocates should at least acknowledge this impact. Its implementation will de facto create two classes of citizens, unless the skeptics and the ” anti-vaccine ” all decide to be inoculated, thus raising the vaccination rate to 100%. This is quite unlikely unless Quebec decides to go ahead with mandatory vaccination for all.

Moreover, this scenario is no longer so improbable given the evolution of mentalities and the government’s security ideology, with which it intends to get re-elected. In the meantime, if Quebec decides to start with mandatory vaccination of health care workers, this move will be a double-edged sword. If it leads to a wave of desertion in a system where hundreds of workers have already deserted, it would likely prompt François Legault to tighten health controls around the population once again. It would be quite a paradox…

In your opinion, why does the PLQ support such a measure?

JBG: Since the very beginning of the pandemic, there is simply no opposition to health measures. Opposition parties have always softly lined up behind François Legault, with a few nuances here and there. The Liberal Party of Quebec is no exception, and its leader, Dominique Anglade, does not seem to want to deviate from either political correctness or sanitary correctness.

One might think that at the beginning of the crisis, this search for unity was legitimate, but once the first waves had passed, the debate should have resumed as it did elsewhere in the world. The National Assembly still sadly reflects the absence of debate that characterizes Quebec, a society that is sinking ever deeper into pathological conformity.

On the other hand, from a purely strategic perspective, the parties have to deal with a majority of Quebecers in favour of measures such as the vaccine passport. A fearful majority that, once again, is looking for comfort. By definition, parties need to get votes.

Is Quebec still a democracy today?

JBG: Quebec is still a democracy with strong institutions. I don’t doubt that for a second.

On the other hand, to use a very fashionable word, one could not say that democracy is very healthy. The lack of debate, hyper consensus and the use of fear are definitely undermining the democratic spirit in Quebec.

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