Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Ottawa Siege: Health and Safety in federally regulated workplaces

I have been wanting to write something about the protest since it started on January 28.  I wanted to get my thoughts together before I posted, but the longer I wait the more facets emerge which are worthy of discussion.

I will start with the federal government regulation that is claimed to have sparked these protests.  I say "claim" because most of what I hear from protesters and supporters has nothing to do with this policy, but larger social issues I'll put into separate articles.

What is this "vaccine mandate" about?

News release: Government of Canada will require employees in all federally regulated workplaces to be vaccinated against COVID-19

This is a simple/boring workplace health and safety policy.

Throughout this pandemic, politicians and the media have done a very poor job in explaining public health policy. This isn't a left-vs-right politician or left-vs-right media issue, as I feel they have all done a poor job.

You will see politicians and media discussing "lockdowns", "mask mandates" and "vaccination mandates" without any context given to clarify the meaning of these phrases.

There is a percentage of the population, higher in western countries, who think of themselves as individuals and not members of a larger society.  When they hear these phrases it means "I am being locked down", "I am being mandated to wear a mask", and "I am being mandated to get a vaccine".

When you look at the policies that have been put in place by Canadian municipal, provincial/territorial and federal governments (and the parallel First Nations governments) they have all been workplace policies:  "this workplace is temporarily closed", "this workplace requires masks", "this workplace requires vaccines".

These two concepts are not remotely the same thing, and yet politicians and the media have been conflating the two.  Given few people read the policies, they incorrectly believe individuals are being regulated rather than workplaces. 

If individuals were mandated, then their individual rights and freedoms may be impacted.  However, since no individual has a right to enter someone else's workplace, their individual rights have not been impacted.

I am unaware of a jurisdiction within what most people call Canada where essential services that citizens require to survive being temporarily closed or requiring vaccinations, and thus am unaware of any scenario where individual rights are in question.

Ignoring unusual political ideology, putting on a mask to enter other people's workplaces shouldn't be any more controversial than a requirement to put on pants. I am so glad there isn't a big movement to protest "workplace clothing mandates".

What does this have to do with Justin Trudeau?

Example: October 6, 2021 announcement by the Prime Minister.

I may not be a fan of the specific language the Prime Minister decided to use in his announcements or media releases, or how other politicians and the media reported on it. I think many individuals in these professions aren't very good at their jobs.

I may find Justin Trudeau embarrassing as Prime Minister, and want to change the seriously flawed Democratic Institutions that puts someone with his lack of qualifications into that position, but that doesn't impact my opinion on this workplace health and safety policy.

Health and Safety policy for Truckers

Once you recognize we are talking about workplaces and not individuals, then how this relates to the trucking industry becomes more obvious.

As part of their work, truckers need to enter other peoples workplaces: their trailers get loaded and unloaded, and along the route they travel for days do as all humans do: eat, sleep, go to bathrooms, etc.  Not all of these things are done entirely inside their cab, and involve entering people's workplaces.

The regulation is not specifically about the health & safety of the truckers, but of all those people whose workplaces they must enter to do their job.


There is a claim truckers are being fired or their individual charter rights are being infringed if they are not vaccinated. While this may be how some individuals feel due to their political biases, this is not what the policy is saying.

Nobody has a right to enter other people's workplaces and ignore the health & safety policy of those workplaces.  Truckers who individually decide to disqualify themselves from entering workplaces required for their job have made a personal choice.

Truckers have special drivers licenses, and many other regulations which simply do not apply to people in other professions. These regulations, many of which were lobbied for by truckers unions to protect truckers individual and collective rights, are all quite normal.

Someone with only a class G1 Ontario drivers license isn't being "fired" or their rights somehow impacted if the job requires that they have a valid Class A (full or restricted) or Class D Ontario drivers license. Not all truck drivers are allowed to drive all types of trucks.

This specific policy has been highly politicized for reasons that can be discussed later, as they relate to the broader political issues at the heart of these protests. Under normal political circumstances I seriously doubt these workplace health & safety policies would have been controversial for anyone.

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