Infringement of rights is in the eye of the beholder

OUT ON A LIMB. Campbell River Mirror

As I expected it would, our IRICE cartoon last week got a reaction from a person in the community (and in many others, I’m sure).

It dealt with the issue of mask wearing and – because it’s an editorial cartoon, i.e., an opinion piece – it expressed the opinion that people refusing to wear masks on the grounds that it infringes our rights and freedoms are wrong. In a nutshell.

The cartoon shows a judge searching for a law that protects peoples’ right to infect others with their germs. She states that she is unable to find one. This isn’t the first time that IRICE (cartoonist Ingrid Rice) has commented on people who refuse to wear masks during the pandemic and it probably won’t be the last.

The person sending the email only signed it with their first name and last initial. Just a reminder, here, folks, we only run letters to the editor that have a full name signed to it. We don’t run anonymous letters to the editor or letters from people who try to hide behind a partial name. If you want the right to express your opinion, then you have to sign your name. There are many reasons for that but the main one is that it encourages people to be accurate and to stand by their comments. It attests to the sincerity or the point of view and the fact that it’s a real person writing it.

We all know full well that social media is able to get away with the misinformation, bullying and disgraceful behaviour because people are allowed to be anonymous. This newspaper has a higher standard than social media.

Sign your name.

However, because the response to the cartoon and its point of view is predictable and expected, I thought I’d touch on the emailer’s contents and include and extrapolate on my reply.

Interestingly, the email’s subject line is “Cartoon”. Cartoon in quotes. The quotes imply that the thing in between them is not really what it professes to be. So, the IRICE cartoon is not a cartoon? But it is a cartoon. To paraphrase The Princess Bride: I do not think those marks mean what you think they mean.

The letter calls us to shame for the cartoon because it is offensive “to our veterans who fought so hard (and lost their lives) to protect our Charter of Rights and Freedoms for which you (and the creator of this cartoon) show a disgusting lack of respect.”

“Next Remembrance Day,” the writer continues, “do not sanctimoniously pretend to honour our veterans and what they fought for. Instead, be honest and tell them that you’ve decided that freedom isn’t all that important, and everything they fought for takes a back seat to whatever is the threat of the day.”

Well, well, well. I tend to let things roll off my back but I’m getting a bit tired of doing that so I replied…

Requiring you to wear a mask to combat a virus is not an infringement on your rights and freedoms.

Are seatbelt laws an infringement of your rights? Are theft and murder laws? Are sanitary rules in restaurants? You don’t have the right to engage in activities that are dangerous to your fellow citizens (never mind yourself).

It’s only a piece of cloth (or paper) for goodness sakes. You can still talk. You can still vote for whatever party you want. You can still walk down the street in relative safety.

RELATED: VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

I’m certain our veterans are very supportive of mask provisions during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They fought to protect our country and allowed it to develop the Charter of Rights in Freedoms (in the post-WWII period) which protects many freedoms, INCLUDING the provision (Section 7) that protects Life, Liberty and the Security of the Person.

According to constitutional scholar Eric Adams, who said in an Alberta newspaper, Section 7 protects the Life, Liberty and Security of the Person at risk of dying from the coronavirus, including our elderly (a group which, notably, our veterans are part of) and other vulnerable groups (healthcare workers). But it is also not limited to the elderly. It can affect us all.

It is well established that our Charter of Rights are subject to reasonable limits and that governments will have to pursue objectives which sometimes limit those rights and freedoms, often in the name of the public good. Because of our veterans’ sacrifice we have governments in power that take action to protect its citizens during times of conflict, disasters and health emergencies. When a government orders you to evacuate your home during a natural disaster, is that an infringement on your rights and freedoms?

To quote the fictional Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” In this case, it’s the rights of the many outweighing the perceived rights of the few.

Our veterans fought for a country that has a government that works to protect its people from both international enemies and from natural disasters. If more than 18,000 Canadians died at the hand of a gunman, or a building collapsed or a particular model of airplane was prone to crashing, we would be asking our government how this was allowed to happen?

Again, I reiterate, it’s only a piece of cloth. And it protects you as much as it protects me but I know you’ve heard all of this before so my repeating it will not change your point of view. You will just have to continue feeling that your government is oppressing you.

Or protecting you. It will depend on how you choose to see things.

RELATED: ‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds


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