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More than one in four Canadians support jail time for the unvaccinated, poll finds

National Post logo National Post 2022-01-19 Anja Karadeglija
Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said it would be acceptable to make the unvaccinated serve up to five days © Provided by National Post Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said it would be acceptable to make the unvaccinated serve up to five days
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Many Canadians are in favour of harsh punishments for the unvaccinated, with 37 per cent saying in a new poll it would be acceptable to deny them publicly-funded health care — and 27 per cent that it would be OK to go as far as a short jail sentence.

“A majority of Canadians have little sympathy for the unvaccinated,” said John Wright, executive vice-president of Maru Public Opinion, which conducted the poll on Jan. 14 and 15. Maru surveyed an online panel of 1,506 Canadians. A comparable probability sample of the same size has a margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

It found two-thirds of Canadians are in favour of mandatory vaccines for everyone over the age of five. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said earlier this month that mandatory vaccinations are on the horizon, and something that provincial governments should be discussing.

The poll also asked about various punitive measures for those who would refuse a mandatory vaccination. Thirty-three per cent of the survey respondents said it would be acceptable to not allow them to renew their drivers’ licence.

Another 37 per cent said it would be ok to refuse to “allow them access to any publicly funded hospital/medical services.” More than a quarter, 27 per cent, said it would be acceptable to make them serve up to five days “as part of a jail sentence for endangering others/overwhelming (the) healthcare system.”

Wright said that with the spread of the Omicron variant, many Canadians are now experiencing a “de facto withdrawal of medical services.”

“An increasing group of people either can’t get access to the medical care that they need or they’re seeing members of their family or their circle being refused that same kind of treatment,” he said.

The viewpoint, Wright said, is that if an unvaccinated person hasn’t “taken any precaution whatsoever, why should you be more at the front of the line than others who have done all the right things, and they aren’t able to get access to treatment,” including people who have had cancer treatment delayed by months.

Sixty-one per cent of the respondents said it would be ok to make the unvaccinated pay “a monetary healthcare surcharge on their taxes of up to $150 per month.” That’s the same percentage that said it would be ok to make such individuals “pay out of pocket for the full medical cost” if they are admitted to hospital or the ICU with COVID-19.

“The sentiment out there is, if you’re going to clog up the healthcare system, then you’re going to pay for it yourself,” Wright said.

Asked how they view those who refuse to be vaccinated, 48 per cent of respondents said those individuals were responsible for overwhelming the health care system, and 40 per cent described them as people “who are holding us back from having a new normal life.” Another 36 per cent said they were “misguided conspiracy theorists” and were “endangering society.”

More than three-quarters of those surveyed, 77 per cent, said it would be acceptable to put in place restrictions barring those who would refuse a mandatory vaccination from entering public spaces like liquor and cannabis stories, libraries, restaurants, cinemas and retail outlets.

Quebec has already moved on some of those measures. New rules requiring proof of vaccination to enter a liquor or cannabis store came into effect Tuesday, and the province has also promised to implement a tax on unvaccinated adults.

Asked how much sympathy respondents had for an unvaccinated person who becomes seriously ill or dies as a result of COVID-19, 27 per cent said they had none at all. Only 19 per cent said they had a lot of sympathy, while the rest were somewhere in between.

 People gather outside Toronto General Hospital, on September 13, 2021, to protest against COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine passports and COVID-19 related restrictions. © Chris Young/The Canadian Press People gather outside Toronto General Hospital, on September 13, 2021, to protest against COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine passports and COVID-19 related restrictions.

There were some with a more favourable view of the unvaccinated. Twenty-seven per cent said they were “good people with legitimate reasons/concerns” and 12 per cent went further, describing them as “heroes for free speech/choice.” That’s three per cent more than the nine per cent of the respondents who were unvaccinated themselves.

When those individuals were asked why they refused a vaccination, 45 per cent said they were “defending my civil liberty to make a choice for me.” A similar proportion, 42 per cent, said they were waiting for more data on safety of the vaccines.

Other reasons cited by the unvaccinated included being anxious or scared about how the vaccine could affect them (28 per cent) and not wanting the government to tell them what to do (22 per cent).

Others cited conspiracy theories, like that the vaccine could affect their genetic structure (21 per cent), that COVID is a “hoax” and “not a killer” (nine per cent) and “a global conspiracy to control those who get it” (four per cent).

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