Leon Fontaine: Muzzling Personal Choice

There has been no vigorous debate in the Canadian public square about the efficacy of masks in limiting the spread of COVID
May 20, 2022 Updated: May 20, 2022

Commentary

Most mask mandates are over and public officials are telling Canadians that wearing a mask is about “personal choice.” It’s nice to know we can now be trusted to make our own determinations about such things, but one question remains: Could it—or should it—have been personal choice all along?

After all, most mandates about social distancing, size of social circles, and wearing masks originated in the spring of 2020 when we were battling a relatively unknown and complex virus. As a result, most Canadians obediently went along with any provincial and federal mandates, but times have changed. We are now entering the third year of the coronavirus pandemic and we know much more about COVID-19 and how it spreads. Whatever mandates remain have become controversial and deemed by many to be more political than necessary.

For example, if mask mandates were based solely on medical science, one would expect them to be consistent across provinces, public buildings, schools, and other jurisdictions. But they are not, and when health officials publicly disagree it undermines the public trust and diminishes the credibility of any medical basis for mandates.

The United States removed the mask mandate from air travel in April and the European Union is expected to follow suit this month. Not so in Canada, however. Dr. Theresa Tam, when asked about mandates for air travellers in a Commons health committee on May 2, testified, “I don’t think we should be lifting mask recommendations.”

At this point, Canadians may not be sure what to think about masking, but what they do know is they have been left out of the conversation.

One factor breeding a growing discontentment with masking is the censorship of any voices that offer opinions that are contrary to government mandates. Dr. Paul Alexander of The Brownstone Institute cited 167 studies showing the ineffectiveness of masking on its own (without other forms of personal protective equipment). Other studies show that masking alone is not enough to protect an individual from infection and may offer a false sense of confidence—not to mention how many pathogens collect on masks when we touch them throughout the day.

Scientists and published studies that show the limitations related to mask mandates deserve to be heard—and Canadians should have the right to hear them.

By now, we should all be seriously considering why the COVID narrative from governments censors all opposing opinion. If what they are mandating is so strong and effective, why can’t it withstand a little debate? By imposing mask mandates, they literally muzzled the public. Why do mask mandates constantly have to be defended by their gatekeepers? Shouldn’t families and employees be given all the relevant information before being forced to mask up for hours on end?

There are no authoritative studies showing that wearing a mask outside will prevent contracting COVID. Even the World Health Organization has admitted that wearing masks while playing sports or during physical activity (like children playing dodge ball in gym class) may affect breathing. It has even been suggested by some scientists that keeping kids masked indoors and in largely sanitized environments could be putting them at greater risk for the development of allergies, hypersensitivities, and autoimmune diseases.

Of course, the psychological impact of children wearing masks for a prolonged period can’t be ignored and only time will tell how it impacts them relationally and cultivates a rational (or irrational) fear of contacting germs.

One important thing for parents to note is that not all masks are created equal. Huge differences exist amongst cloth masks, cheap one-layer masks, three-layer masks, and medical masking that has been adopted for decades under a practice called universal precautions.

It’s not only another layer of protection that was missing from the Canada-wide mask mandates—it was a public conversation about their effectiveness, side effects, and long-term impacts.

There has been no vigorous debate in the Canadian public square about the efficacy of masks in limiting the spread of COVID or on the negative medical issues associated with masking.

Recent lifting of mask mandates might be a honeymoon phase. I think we’re long overdue to have a public, thoughtful conversation about the role of non-pharmaceutical interventions (like masks) in our lives, whether it be with COVID or any future disaster the government wishes to mitigate. Without proper guardrails in place, similar policies and mandates may come down the pipe sooner than we hope, and Canadians will still be waiting to see data on how masking has been effective to “curb the spread.”

Masking should always be a personal choice based on risk assessment. It’s time for our masking policies to reflect that.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Leon Fontaine is a TV & podcast host, CEO of a media organization, international speaker, and author. Watch or listen to Leon’s news analysis series Return to Reason online or on your favourite podcast platform.