For quite some time, Canadians have been subject to heated discourse on the topic of vaccines and, more broadly, vaccination mandates. Recently, these conversations have reached a boiling point.
On January 22, the Canadian federal government implemented a policy that requires unvaccinated truck drivers to quarantine once they have returned from the United States border. In response to this, Canadian truckers across the country planned to participate in a “Freedom Convoy” to Parliament Hill in Ottawa and protest this policy. Soon enough, supported by many Canadians and subsequent protests en route to the capital city, the protest morphed into a vastly popular and controversial cry against the government to remove all COVID-19 restrictions, such as mask mandates, lockdown restrictions, and vaccination policies. Thousands of trucks have participated in this movement, almost breaking the record for the biggest convoy in the world. Whether we think this convoy is progress or repeating history, most Redeemer students sit back in awe at this historic moment.
There is a lot to be said about this issue, but most of our posture towards it drips with bias, either for or against this movement, and there is a lack of nuance from both sides. One ought to consider the issue from both sides insofar as they are reasonable and acknowledge that protesting requires a standard of justice, which can be found in Scripture. The proper attitude when examining these events from recent weeks is to evaluate them with clear heads and humble hearts.
It is just over one week since the convoy reached Ottawa–where are we now? The week has been a mix of good and bad, reputable and deplorable. Early on in the week, protestors were seen dancing and drinking on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a national monument to Canada’s fallen soldiers. Others decorated the statue of Terry Fox, giving him an upside-down Canadian flag to hold. Ottawa residents and small business owners have been caught in the crossfire, as constant truck horns blare in the city streets and clog up the city. There have been some extremists in support of the movement, with one swastika flag and a few Confederate flags flying outside of Parliament.
However, many of these actions (except the honking) have been denounced by the majority of protestors, and positive actions have popped up as well: the accounts of homeless individuals being fed, hockey games in the streets, and a general sense of passion and patriotism have come from the downtown core. There are those with good intentions and those who seek evil who are participating in this protest, and as Christians, we ought to listen to the genuine freedom fighters and be quick to condemn acts of violence, intimidation, and racism.
What are the motivations behind this movement? It is understandable to see how the truckers feel that the vaccination mandate is an unjust policy, since it seems unnecessary given that truck drivers are not often in contact with people as part of their job. Additional protestors throughout the country generally seek freedom of choice when it comes to getting vaccinated, and they rightfully wish to enjoy the freedoms that they once had prior to lockdowns. But do bad policies demand dishonourable forms of action?
Those who criticize the movement are right to be skeptical of the morality and effectiveness of the protest. Peaceful protests are permitted by the federal government, but some convoy leaders still favour revolutionary tendencies. This includes Ontario’s convoy organizer, Jason LaFace, who called for a dissolution of the government. Furthermore, protests must require a proper understanding of our law if change can be effective. There is not much ground for protestors in their assertion that COVID-19 mandates are unconstitutional. This argument comes from Keith Wilson, the aiding lawyer to the convoy’s organizers. However, all vaccination mandates provide a degree of freedom to resist the vaccine, and they are consistent with the first section of the Charter, which acknowledges that constitutional rights have their limits.
Yet, hearing mainstream justifications on both sides is not enough. It is essential to seek the biblical understanding of protests, something that has recently been abused in our common discourse. Unfortunately for some convoy supporters, there is not much biblical support for their hatred, disrespect, and calls for freedom.
The biblical perspective on government is summarized in Romans 13:1-2, in which Paul says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established… Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” The implication for today suggests that God instructs us to respect the Canadian government because he continues to use it as a necessary instrument for justice. Being fueled by hatred towards the government is, therefore, dishonouring God’s creation. This is the argument put forward by John Calvin, Abraham Kuyper, Bob Goudzwaard, Vince Bacote and more, which shows that Reformed theologians should be turning in their graves, even if they are still alive.
But since the government is a sphere of authority under God, it still requires accountability and support from its citizens so that it can fulfill its role to properly execute justice. Protesting against mandates should not come from the desire to seek autonomy or the ability to do whatever we like. Rather, we should encourage our leaders to provide freedom as means to an end because we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and He intends us to be liberated from corruption (Romans 8:21).
As of February 7, Ottawa has declared a state of emergency because of the remaining protestors, but there are still no signs of altering COVID-19 policies. So, what do we do in the face of failed leadership after failed protests? God’s Word suggests that we ought to be slow to anger (Proverbs 14:29), adopt patience (Proverbs 15:18), lament the current state of failed leadership (Habakkuk 1:2-4), and trust in God’s power to redeem what is broken. My hope is that Redeemer students can be inspired by God’s Word to properly evaluate the purpose of government but also be humbled in our response to political injustice.