Coercion does not Equal Consent

BC Public Service Employees for Freedom dawned as a small Telegram group the same week that our employer, the BC Public Service Agency, informed us about its mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy. Within days we grew from 40 to over 800 and now have more than 1500 members. After our website went live and we shared some of our colleague’s impact statements, we received an outpouring of additional BC Public Service employees wanting to share theirs too. Here are just a few:

“I have served for over 6 years as a BC public servant. I come from a country where dissent or questioning government rules was not possible, what is known as tyranny. In my country of origin the lack of opportunities to dissent escalated from political levels, to unions, to anywhere in your own neighbourhood and within family members.

The country I come from also has a card system to control who could survive and how, and who will be condemned to death or isolation just because of a different ideology or because you have had education. Freedom of speech was silenced with no food, no jobs, no protection of your life, just by using a simple ‘harmless’ tool: an identification card based on your beliefs. That system ruined everyone’s life and more than 5 million people have left that country as immigrants, refugees, and another 4 million have left due to suicides, assassinations, or because they were denied basic needs and left to die (no access to human life, no food, no shelter, no medical assistance).

Everything started with stigma and discriminatory speech like the ones I hear these days in Canada. Everything started by ‘political leaders’ and their allies seeding hate among neighbours, colleagues, and families. Then the seed grew and they started to kill each other leading to a civil war backed up with military on their side. While the actual Government could deploy their most corrupt policies and laws to perpetuate their power (which they have done for over 22 years now). By the time people realized what was really going on it was already too late, when people thought ‘this cannot get worse’, it did… my country of origin already has lost its capacity to overcome or fight against inflation, economic and social crisis, and so many people already had left the country or are impassioned that fear and survival modes reigns the streets nowadays.

I came to Canada impressed by its ethics around freedom and human rights; by the kindness and politeness of its people; for its honesty towards environmental issues and their drive to look for sustainable environmental solutions. Nevertheless, nowadays I am surrounded with what seems to be a repeat of history from my home country: the hate speech by leaders, control cards to access basic needs, the abuse of power in the name of what people want to hear, blockages of means to survive or live if you don’t follow or if you question, fear or my life due to the stigma seeded in the people I interact with, unions siding with politicians and being biased, kindness being substituted by fear and rage, coercion using people’s livelihoods….

I hope Canada is able to turn back into the country that one day inspired me to come and settle here. I hope we can find science-based (non-biased, non-censored, with freedom of speech) and a human approach to a common problem nowadays: the Covid-19 virus. The WHO have been clear that we have to learn to live with it, probably as we did with HIV and with so many other social stigmas. We could only be able to do that if we open not only our minds but also our hearts.”:

– Anonymous BC Public Service Employee

“I am an Indigenous woman and second generation survivor of residential schools in Canada. My father always told me to stand up for what I believe in. In order to keep my job, I am being coerced into making a choice that I don’t feel comfortable doing. A choice that has potential consequences that can affect my health and my family. No one is accountable for the outcome other than me.  

The Canadian Government already has a dark past with coercion and discriminatory cards also known as, Indian Status Cards. And now the ‘health passports’ are the same approach for systemic discrimination. Only now, in 2021, 25 years after the last residential school closed, the government is apologizing for its actions and all the lives lost and people still suffering from the brutal and unspeakable actions towards Indigenous people in Canada. The Church and the Government were responsible for the inhumane acts that took place and to this day, no one has been held accountable. How many years will it take for the public to hold the government accountable for the actions they are taking against their people for the Covid-19 pandemic? 

How can BC Public Service preach diversity, inclusive workplace and reconciliation when their means and manners have not changed at all?  Maybe a majority of people are so trusting of the government because the government didn’t commit genocide on their family. Not me! Not my family. I know the history. And Indigenous people are still suffering. I am taking a stand and I am ready to fight for my rights, my children’s rights and their children rights

When there is risk, there must always be choice. One question I want you to ask yourself – If we allow the government to coerce us into making a choice when no one is responsible for the outcome but you, what’s next? What else will happen? What other restrictions will be put in place to control you and strip people of their rights?” 

– Anonymous Employment and Assistance Worker from the M. of Social Development and Poverty Reduction

“I am an immigrant who moved to this country 6 years ago hoping to experience the natural beauty of this magical province we inhabit, and taste the freedom from tyranny and oppression. I was so excited when I first landed a job working for the BC Public Service: an institution which, I was led to believe, protected those things mentioned above. Unfortunately, I have found out that the promises of immigrating to a free country have been broken and I find myself in a situation worse than before.

Years ago my partner (now an avid ecologist) suffered escaping communism in Vietnam by crossing the Pacific ocean on an overcrowded, leaky boat. She is now again confronted with tyranny, discrimination and oppression of the same kind: they want to take away her bodily autonomy and right to individual conscience.

Our union, the BCGEU, instead of helping us has publicly called us “white supremacist, neo-Nazis” for unknown and unsupported reasons…

At this point, we are turning and taking a stand….not running. We are ready to fight and die for our rights, should it come to that.”

– Anonymous Ministry of Citizens’ Services employee

“I’ve worked for the BC government for 32 years. I love my job and now I’m losing my career because I believe in freedom of choice. Humans should have a choice. I want my grandchildren to have a choice about what they put into their body. They shouldn’t have to “show papers” to take part in everyday human activities.”

– Anonymous Ministry of Advanced Education employee

“For the past 5 years, I’ve worked within the Ministry of Forests to the best of my ability for the public benefit. I’m willing and able to continue work, but facing job loss due to these vaccine mandates regardless of my work ethic and experience. These mandates are negatively impacting everyone, either directly or indirectly.”

– Anonymous Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development employee

“I have been a public servant for nearly 5 years. Prior to that, I worked in medical environments for about 10 years where patient consent and confidentiality was a crucial and fundamental aspect of my work. In the public service, I have also worked in HR environments, and the same basic human rights principles continued to apply to my work.
I have devoted myself to my employer, my province, to my work, and as a colleague. I am also an individual, just as you are. I’m not just these words on a page. I am surely someone walking a path similar to someone you know and love. 

As a child I did not have bodily autonomy because I was abused for most of my childhood. My body was not mine until I reclaimed it as a young adult after nearly giving up on myself. I have overcome an incredible amount of trauma and have come out of it as an empathetic person who is able to confront situations that are unethical and inhumane. Even when it has become this difficult.

I have been a loving and supportive member of society. Whatever your ailment was while I was at the clinics I served, I respected you, I respected your rights, and I protected your information to the highest degree. I demanded more from management, to ensure your medical information was safe. I was kind to you, even when you were too sick to be kind to me. My dedication and work ethic also did not falter as a public servant. I have served British Columbians with graciousness and with pride. I love my province, my country, and its people, and I have given you my heart.

I will always uphold medical privacy rights and the right to bodily autonomy. I will always fight for you to have those rights, I will also fight for my own, for my family, my friends, and especially for my son.  

This mandate is forcefully demanding that I now go against everything I have been protecting all this time. My current wellbeing and my future becomes hostage and should I not comply and surrender to the demands, I will lose nearly everything and become one of many that will be subject to detrimental outcomes in my life. 

Please don’t ask me to throw away or negotiate the importance of medical privacy. I can’t and I won’t. Don’t expect me to forsake my right to what happens to my body after I only just got it back 20 years ago. I can’t. I won’t. 

Please, stand with me because despite the damage that has already been done to me, and many others through this, despite my mental health breaking down, I still stand with you. I know that we are all trying to navigate this pandemic in our best way, but we will never succeed in this important mission if we have lost our humanity. And I’m not ready to believe we have lost that.”

– Anonymous BC Public Service employee

“I joined the BCPS [BC Public Service] in 2000 and absolutely loved my job. I spent 2 years working full time in a job that I absolutely loved but was only casual on call as there was a hiring freeze in my Ministry. Eventually I realized it could be years before I could pay into a pension or have medical benefits so I left the BCPS to work for the RCMP.

I then spent the next 7 years working for the RCMP in a very toxic environment. I had come from a job with wonderful co-workers and supervisors so I could not understand how I ended up in a Federal Agency where as a women I was discriminated against and sexually harassed. I had no where to report any of the bullying or harassment to, as they did not have a union, no one internally to report to except for immediate supervisors who were aware and part of the problem. Eventually a group of female employees went to a lawyer who also told us that this would be hard to prove and successfully win any wrong doing labour relations-wise. Keep in mind this was the early 2000s and labour laws are not as they are today. I spent many days at my place of employment where I felt complete anxiety and terrorized at work to the point where I was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, wore a heart monitor and needed counseling.

Eventually I went on maternity leave which is when I was diagnosed with PTSD due to my experience with my employer. Through a lot of counseling I vowed I would never again be quiet when I saw people being wronged or silenced. I made a promise to myself that I would always stand up for what is right, that I would be clear on my convictions and with that I resigned with honors as a retired member of the RCMP. Years later in 2020 the RCMP was made accountable and due to a settlement had to provide names of all employees whose voices were never heard and anyone who had made a complaint that was never acknowledged and required to compensate all those who gave up their careers due to the unjust treatment they received at the time of employment. 

Meanwhile in 2018 I was thrilled to be back at my home Ministry working with vulnerable populations; somewhere I know I am making a difference in the lives of people who are desperately in need: homeless, those fleeing abuse, and some in the active throws of addiction. I genuinely love my job, I love what I do. Everyday I have felt blessed to work for a Ministry that prides itself on inclusion, diversity, and ethics. I am a voice for those who can’t find theirs.
That all changed on October 5, 2021 for me. First of all I will say that I am not against vaccines, I have been vaccinated and so have my children. My dad is a polio survivor before the vaccine was available that saved so many children. I have a child with autism. Some claim autism may be caused by a vaccine injury, do I believe my child may have had one, I can’t say one way or another if that is true or not. I would like to think it is not. I can confirm however that the day after one of my perfectly healthy family members had her second Covid vaccine she was found dead from heart complications in her sleep. I can also confirm that a friend I have known for 20 years had a stroke within an hour of his second vaccine shot and was completely paralyzed on one side and to this day walks with a cane. But this is more than the personal loss I have witnessed. 

The fact my employer now feels entitled to attempt to use coercion using my employment as a bartering tool so that I will inject an experimental drug into my body in order to continue my employment is extortion. I have worked from home for two years, I don’t go to an office and I don’t see clients in person and yet they have made it clear that I am not going to be eligible for an exemption and I am still somehow a safety risk. My employer also feels they are entitled to discriminate against me due to my medical status and that they have the right to my personal medical information.

So here I am again dealing with an employer that I once believed to be ethical, undiscriminatory and fair. They have ordered the medical extortion of their employees or face losing your house and starve. I am a single mother, I live paycheck to paycheck, I have a mortgage, I have a disabled child whose medication alone is close to $300.00 a month. So in December I will not be eligible for E.I. and I will find myself on the other end of the phone, dependent on the Ministry that fired me while I have to apply for welfare because I was more afraid of the complications of an medical procedure that is not finished clinical trials until 2023 that could risk leaving my children without a mother.”

– Anonymous Employment and Assistance Worker from the M. of Social Development and Poverty Reduction