Quebec is abandoning its plan to tax people who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
The province’s Premier François Legault announced the end of the proposed tax on Feb. 1, saying at a press conference that the decision was made to protect “social cohesion.” Legault said he had observed “growing discontent” among the population.
“I understand that this divides Quebecers and right now we need to build bridges,” said Legault. “My role is to try to bring Quebecers together to stay united as a people.”
His remarks come more than a week after Canadian truckers launched a convoy across Canada in protest of the country’s vaccine mandates and COVID-19 regulations.
The Freedom Convoy has raised more than $10 million CAD ($7.9 million USD) — more than any major federal political candidate raised during the last quarter of 2021, per public records.
Demonstrating against political overreach on the part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration, the movement’s rapid growth has won domestic and international support.
Quebec’s decision to abandon its tax on the unvaccinated — a decision that was initially announced three weeks ago — is a sign to some that the movement is having an impact on government officials.
While the specific details of the tax were unclear, Legault said on Jan. 11 that it could have been included in provincial tax filings and be $100 CAD or more.
Approximately 10% of Quebec’s population is unvaccinated.
“Community advocates, bioethicists and other experts raised concerns about the proposal, saying that more education was needed, instead of punitive measures,” reports CBC. “Others questioned the legal ramifications, saying the proposed tax could run afoul of the Canada Health Act.”
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms condemned the proposed law and said it would legally challenge the tax if it were enacted.
John Carpay, the Justice Centre president, called the tax an “egregious violation of the Charter rights of Quebecers and an affront to equality which Canada was, in times past, known for.”
“This is a blatant attack on a minority of society. Historically, persecution of a minority through taxation has paved the way for further and worse measures. We will fight this discriminatory and unscientific tax in court and defend the right to bodily autonomy of Quebecers and all Canadians. This injustice has no place in Canada,” said Carpay in a press release on Jan. 13.
Instead of the tax, Legault said his government will try and convince the unvaccinated population to get the shots by encouraging people to make appointments or by sending teams door-to-door who will offer at-home vaccinations.
Quebec currently requires vaccine passports for entry into places of worship and non-essential businesses. Unvaccinated people are not permitted to enter liquor stores or cannabis dispensaries. A province-wide curfew from 10:00 P.M. to 5:00 A.M was also implemented.