Vaccination: Inmates Should Wait, Says Doug Ford
By: Bob Bernstein
Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, made remarks at his press conference on January 6th, 2021, urging the federal government to move federal prison inmates further back in line in the race to get vaccinated, or words to that effect. One of Ford’s most commonly used expressions, “We are all in this together”, evidently only extends so far.
“Let’s not give the most dangerous criminals in our country the vaccine before we give it to our long-term care patients, most vulnerable and elderly people,” Ford said. “I encourage the federal government, I encourage the Prime Minister; stop it. It is not good”, he added.
“How do you square this? How do you put them (referring to inmates) ahead of long-term care patients? How do you put them in front of all the most vulnerable and we’re scraping every vaccine we can get? I imagine whoever the minister is in charge of that has dropped the ball majorly,” said Ford.
Ford must have forgot that those living in penitentiaries are in fact, particularly vulnerable. Squalid prisons are known for infectious disease outbreaks and over crowdedness. Our prisoners in Canada do not get the freedom to physically distance al fresco, and do not have access to the proper personal protective equipment on the inside.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission indicates, “Every person on Canadian soil, whether they are in our prison system or in our immigration system, deserves to be treated with humanity and dignity, and to have full access to Canada’s human rights protections”.
The United Nations states, “Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situations”. Our very own Premier flouts the most basic ethical principle—everyone should be treated equally. While our prisons have a long way to go before meeting this obligation from the United Nations, moving inmates towards the back of the line without any medically backed rationale, is overt discrimination in one of its purest forms.
Notwithstanding the fact that Indigenous people make up five percent of the country, more than a third of Canadian prisoners are Indigenous. Over forty percent of women in federal custody are Indigenous.
Ford’s disconcerting tendency to denigrate some of the most vulnerable people in this country must come to an end. Ontario’s leader must present with unremitting passion and dedication to social justice, especially in these unprecedented times.
The roll out of the vaccine against the novel coronavirus is no place for vindictiveness, resentment, and punishment. All humans have equal moral worth, and society must never deviate from that fundamental principle. Ford must confine his suggestions to his own bailiwick, and leave, “who’s next”, to the public health officials.