Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted to walk back his vaccine mandate stance at a recent event, telling participants he did not compel Canadians to get jabbed against COVID-19, but simply encouraged them.
During a question and answer session held on April 24 with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the University of Ottawa, Trudeau told the audience that as Prime Minister, his responsibility during the “greatest public health crisis that we’ve faced in a hundred years” was to keep as many Canadians alive as possible.
“And all of the scientists and the medical experts and their researchers, not just in Canada but around the world, understood that vaccination was going to be the way through this,” he said. “And therefore, while not forcing anyone to get vaccinated, I chose to make sure that all the incentives and all the protections were there to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated.”
In October 2021, the Canadian government began requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for roughly 268,000 federal public workers, with exceptions for banks and telecommunications companies. Employees who did not comply were placed on unpaid administrative leave and would not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
As part of the public health plan, Trudeau also announced his government would be mandating vaccination for travel, including passengers on trains and airlines. Trudeau said at the time, “By the end of November, if you’re 12 or older and want to fly or take the train, you’ll have to be fully vaccinated,” adding that providing a negative test result would no longer be an option.
On Jan. 15, Trudeau extended the mandate to truck drivers returning to Canada from the U.S. In response, a convoy of thousands of truckers was organized and descended on Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Trudeau countered by invoking the Emergencies Act to shut down the protest, taking the controversial and unprecedented step of freezing the bank accounts of anyone linked to the protest.
While fielding questions from reporters in early February 2022, Trudeau remarked that mandates were his preferred policy prescription:
One of the things we all understand is just how frustrated everyone is. We’re all frustrated, we’re all sick and tired of restrictions, of mandates, of having to make sacrifices, of not being able to do the things we love. It’s been two years and it’s really, really tiring for all of us.
This government has been focused every step of the way on following the best science, following the best public health advice to keep as many people safe as possible, and quite frankly, it’s worked.
I can understand frustration with mandates. But, mandates are the way to avoid further restrictions, or having to be restricted.
He added, “So, this team is going to stay focused on doing exactly that.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Ottawa as the capital of British Columbia.