A new report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal proves conclusively what most Canadians already knew: that the various restrictive measures taken by the federal and provincial governments to limit the impact of COVID-19 did their job.
The data collected for the report covered the first two years of the pandemic, from February 2020 to February 2022. In a nutshell, the research shows that Canada’s performance on multiple indicators – number of infections, number of hospitalizations and number of deaths – was much better than all but one of the eleven countries examined, all of which have similar political, economic and health care systems. “If you look at the G10, the differences are enormous” study co-author Dr. Fahad Razak stated.[i]
Given those very similar background conditions, the report concludes that the obvious explanation for the huge disparity in results is due to two factors. First, Canada introduced relatively severe and long-lasting restrictions. As one expert analyst noted, “Compared to many of these other countries…they would have periods with tight restrictions but quickly pull back. For Canada, it was this high and almost persistent level almost entirely for the first two years.” [ii] The report also noted that, without the panoply of measures introduced by both levels of government, more than 70,000 more individuals might have died and countless others would have been infected, possibly with the lasting impact of long COVID.
Canada’s stellar performance is even more remarkable given the challenges posed by the fact that provinces have the primary responsibility for health care in the federation, forcing the federal government to establish new and often voluntary nationwide programs and procedures, and to introduce incentives to prod some reluctant premiers to toe the line. (Who could forget Jason Kenney’s foolish and fatal declaration that Alberta was ‘Open for Summer’ in June 2021[iii] , or Doug Ford’s lengthy pig-headed resistance to providing paid sick leave for workers?[iv])
The second reason for Canada’s superior record is the hugely successful immunization program. The report notes that more than 80% of Canadians were fully vaccinated (two doses) by June 2022, including 90% of adults. Meanwhile the percentage of vaccinated populations in the other countries under review is only between 64% and 77%. Dr. Razak stressed that “When we speak to our colleagues across the world, Canada is the envy of the world in terms of our population rallying around this. It is also a lesson…that very high engagement can occur with the right (government) strategy.”[v] Once again this is even more remarkable given that Canada experienced a somewhat slower start to the vaccination process, due primarily to circumstances beyond the control of the federal government.
Despite all of this scientific evidence, a small number of disaffected Canadians disrupted life in several border communities and the nation’s capital with their so-called Freedom Convoy in January, 2022, demanding the removal of all pandemic restrictions. Over the course of the next several months virtually all provinces scaled back and then essentially eliminated those restrictions, including finally the last line of defence, the wearing of a mask in close quarters in public venues. Perhaps not surprisingly, this has led to COVID numbers ratcheting back up, with many experts predicting a fifth wave in late summer due to the recent emergence of new Omicron variants and the declining immunity offered by only two vaccine doses. Indeed, most health care professionals are calling for the return of masking in public venues, and an urgent campaign to encourage more Canadians to step up for a booster shot. Canada is now falling behind other G-10 countries in this regard, apparently due to citizen complacency caused by the relaxation of rules and regulations. We now stand at only 56% of adults with 3 shots, and 9% with 4, (although the number is higher for those over 70 at 44.5%) placing us 7th on the G10 list we once led.
Nevertheless a somewhat smaller but determined contingent continues to call for the removal of the very few COVID measures remaining in place, such as in hospitals.What to make of this truly recalcitrant behaviour? Clearly some of these individuals have become captive to disinformation campaigns on social media, worrying for example about mythical chips implanted by Bill Gates in the vaccines. Others have taken a pseudo-philosophical position, arguing that their freedom should be unimpeded by any responsibility to their fellow citizens. Either way, the patent refusal to accept scientific evidence, or the legitimate role of the state in protecting its citizens, is a distressing example of narcissistic individualism run amok.
With some of these individuals planning to ‘protest’ yet again in Ottawa on Canada Day, it would be wise for them to consider just how much they have benefited from the responsible actions of their fellow citizens and their duly elected governments.
[i] V. Ann. Canadian Press. “Canada’s Covid Response Better than Many Comparable Countries, Study Finds”. June 27, 2022.
[ii] Op cit
[v] Ann. Op cit.