The Ugly Business of Scapegoating the Unvaccinated

Science or Morality?

Before our Prime Minister was equating vaccine hesitancy with racism and misogyny, and a beat or two after he said that his government would not introduce vaccine mandates because their imposition would divide Canadians, Justin Trudeau implored unvaccinated Canadians “to do the right thing,” like so many of their fellow Canucks already had, and “get vaccinated.” 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, you’ll know by now that the vaccination campaign being waged by the federal government and provinces has not simply been a matter of “following the science.”  It is now perfectly clear that there is no such policy, if there ever could have been. If there were, Corona measures would be the same everywhere, which they most certainly are not. 

To offer a simple example, in Germany, where I currently live, if you are considered “recovered” from COVID – a status you acquire 28 days after a positive PCR test – you may enjoy the same liberties the “fully vaccinated” do. This news would shock many Canadians, and many would call you a conspiracy theorist for suggesting that people can develop natural immunity from the virus, and that those who have it ought to be exempt from vaccine mandates.  

To finish the thought, a couple of weeks ago, the Germans changed the expiry date on this status from 6 months to 3 months, a change that does not, as it happens, apply to members of the German Parliament. In Switzerland, you enjoy this status for 12 months. A few miles down the road from where I currently sit, in Austria, where they are proposing some of the most draconian measures targeting the unvaccinated in the Western world, citizens continue to enjoy this status for 6 months. Is “the science” different in Canada, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany? 

That is just one example. There are countless others like it.  My point is simply that the idea that government policy has its one and only source in “the science”, and that any who question it, or point out that things might be done differently are beyond the pale, is nothing more than propaganda. 

One is reminded of the old adage we’d do well to bear in mind in Coronatide: a politician uses science like a drunk man does a lamppost – for support not illumination. When a politician claims they are simply “following the science”, you can be virtually certain that “science” is being used as a cover for what are really moral decisions or judgements for which he does not want to be held accountable. 

Even more significant than that officials are passing moral judgment dressed up as scientific objectivity, is how they are doing so.  In their desperation to justify failing policies, politicians like our Prime Minister have tapped into a very old and very dark feature of human behaviour, something sociologists call the “scapegoat mechanism.”

The leading theorist in this area, whose analysis I rely on in some of what I say here, is the late French thinker René Girard. Look him up; he’s fascinating and brilliant.

When something goes wrong, especially when something goes very wrong, people instinctively look around for something or someone to blame. When it is a someone, he is called a scapegoat.  

In old tribal societies, the need to assign blame justified human sacrifice. Examples of scapegoating in Western civilization abound: think Cain and Abel, Iphigenia, Socrates, Jesus, Jews during the Black Death, the Salem Witch trials, and so on. 

Before there was a national discussion of vaccine mandates, healthcare sin taxes, widespread refusal of GPs to offer unvaccinated patients in person care, and government endorsed vitriol directed at the unvaccinated, the seeds of scapegoating those who turned down this new breed of vaccine were already sown when we were told that the vaccinated had done “the right thing.” 

The implication was clear: if you weren’t vaccinated, you were sinning by omission. As President Joe Biden put it around the same time Trudeau was offering his moral counsel, patience with the unvaccinated was “running out.” It seems now to have expired. Calls to punish the unvaccinated in Canada are now ringing out loud and clear from coast to coast.

Justin Trudeau and those who think like him are wrong to assert there is moral clarity in the vaccine debate, for the simple reason that a given action cannot be deemed “good” if it has been coerced, nor can a given choice bask in the glory of its moral goodness if that choice has an ulterior motive.   

This means that from the word go the vaccinated cannot as a group be said to have done “the right thing,” nor by extension can the unvaccinated be said not to have done so. But the trouble with our PM’s assertion is not simply that it is mistaken, the real problem is that his way of thinking is dangerous.

I think these divisive categories recently erected between the vaccinated and unvaccinated are ultimately useless and wrong, and that they should be scrapped, but for the sake of argument, an argument our PM and leaders the world over have started, let us take a moment to consider the most plausible moral motivations of those on both sides of our newly erected class divide. 

Is Getting Vaccinated the Right Thing to Do?

The best indication of moral conviction is what a man is willing to sacrifice for the sake of his beliefs. Put another way, genuine moral conviction corresponds to the level of courage it takes to maintain those convictions. As the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once observed, the only way a virtue, say patience, can manifest itself, is if it first dons the armour of courage, since every virtue will simply disappear without the support of courage.

By this standard, I would suggest – especially at this stage of the vaccine campaign when the overwhelming majority of Canadians have been vaccinated it is the unvaccinated who are much more likely to be operating from a place of genuine moral conviction than their vaccinated counterparts. 

Given that COVID-19 poses little-to-no danger to the vast majority of the population, it follows that the vaccinated are more likely to have had amoral rather than positively moral motivations lying behind their decision to take the jab. By this I mean that many took these experimental vaccines because they wanted to avoid the inconvenience of the various mandates that were to be made a condition of participation in public life, and to escape the inevitable stigma that would be attached to a class of people so obviously destined to become social pariahs. This is prudence and self-interest, not courage.

Many will have taken the vaccine out of deference to government and public health authorities who encouraged them to do so. Obedience to authorities you believe acting in the interest of the common good is a commendable moral action, but it does not carry much risk to run with the herd. It may be moral, but it is not particularly courageous.  

Similarly, it is certainly a moral good to have taken the vaccine if you believed this was the best choice for your personal health. Self-preservation is a moral good, but again this is not the stuff heroes are made of. Very often our instincts for self-preservation come at the cost of harming others. Self-preservation and obedience, in a word, are not unalloyed moral goods.

Those who took the vaccines for higher moral reasons had to believe that these vaccines carried some risk to themselves, but that the risk was worth it, because their actions would help stop the spread of the virus. Those who took the vaccines for this reason are to be commended for their selflessness.  But there cannot be many of these, because theirs is itself an irrational, or at least a paradoxical position. Let me explain.

The idea behind taking any vaccine is that it is more dangerous to catch the disease without it. So a vaccinated person who possesses the level of moral character under consideration here must believe on the one hand that the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus, but on the other he also believes that the vaccine will stop its spread. Not only is his position incoherent, it has turned out to be the opposite of the currently received position: the vaccine was never meant to stop the spread; it was designed only to reduce the risk of severe illness. 

The last group of vaccinated Canadians are those who were coerced into taking it, mainly because they were afraid of losing their job. These are the only vaccinated Canadians who may be classified as both rational and courageous. They cannot have done the “right thing” in our Prime Minister’s sense of the term since they were coerced. Morally good actions cannot be coerced. As any parent will know, it is not enough for our children to say they are sorry, they must be sorry to regain their status as a member of the household in good standing. The only thing Canadians who were coerced into vaccination are sorry about is that they had no other choice. 

Vaccinated Canadians who got the shot because they were coerced have not lived up to the government standard which equates the desire to be vaccinated with virtue. But Aristotle would say that they have done something courageous. By accepting a medical treatment they do not want or think they need, sacrificing their sacred right to bodily autonomy, they have shown genuine courage.

This type of courage emerges in the human heart when society at large becomes overbalanced on the side of authoritarian moralism at the expense of freely chosen goodness. These vaccinated Canadians have had their rights violated in service of a higher purpose, whether its to pay their bills or care for their family. Vaccinated Canadians who fit this description without doubt are possessed of hearts full of courage.

So much for the morality of the vaccinated. What of the unvaccinated? 

Are the Unvaccinated Selfish?

The mantra of the COVID hawk is that the unvaccinated are a selfish class of person, more concerned with his own personal freedom than the “safety” of his neighbour. The unvaccinated crow for their liberties, without giving a thought to the responsibilities that make them possible. To this, I say balderdash.

I have never met anyone in my entire life who has tried to get someone sick, or who would not take reasonable precautions to avoid passing along a contagious illness to their neighbour. The vaccine hawks would have you believe there is a city twice the size of Toronto full of such people.

The unvaccinated people of my acquaintance are some of the most health conscience in the best possible sense of the term! and least selfish people I know. By contrast, I cannot think of a more selfish argument than telling someone do something they themselves do not and cannot bear any responsibility for.  

This is the logic of the “just get vaccinated” refrain that caused my antenna to shoot up from the beginning. To my naïve way of viewing the world, if even one person who did not medically need or want the vaccine were to be harmed as a result of this categorical moral edict, it is he who issued it that should be held responsible for the damage.  

I became even more convinced of the moral recklessness of our leadership class when I went beyond the soundbite to look at the official government advice in print. Officially, health authorities recommend these vaccines in consultation with a physician, yet it became increasingly clear that physicians were in thrall to the political will of the moment. None were free to offer exemptions except in the rarest of circumstances. What kind of consultation is really possible under such conditions? The hyper-focus on mass vaccination began this vicious cycle, one that grossly violates what should be the sacrosanct relationship between doctor and patient. This reason alone is enough to justify not only medical reluctance about whether to get vaccinated, but also conscientious objection.

It is no small thing to ask someone to take a rushed vaccine justified by a declared state of emergency. That is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It is a much bigger ask of the young than the old, a bigger ask of a pregnant woman and a mother of three in her twenties than a healthy single man in his fifties. There are a whole host of legitimate reasons one might decline these vaccines. But none of these reasons are taken into consideration by our governments, for if they were the idea of vaccine mandates, and “pandemic of the unvaccinated” rhetoric that follows from them, would be laughed to scorn, the thought not even entertained by any decent person.

How did we arrive in this strange place?

The Scapegoating Mechanism

While the instinct to find a scapegoat is motivated by the need to discover a guilty party, there is a crucial plot twist in the story of the scapegoating mechanism. Strange to say, the scapegoating mechanism doesn’t actually fulfill its purpose, unless the scapegoat himself is actually innocent, rather than guilty.  

You’ll notice this is the single feature that unites individuals and groups listed above, hailing from otherwise completely different cultural contexts and historical periods – they are, all of them, innocent. 

So what is the purpose of the scapegoating mechanism that seeks to punish not the guilty, but the innocent?

When you come to understand that scapegoating is about offering a sacrifice, you see why it is essential that the victim should also be innocent. The guilty do not count as a worthy sacrifice, for the guilty deserve punishment. No, only the innocent are an acceptable sacrifice. Only the innocent will appease the wrath of the gods. Only the innocent possess the requisite purity to purge the guilt from the rest of us.


Since we don’t believe in gods anymore, we ourselves have become that angry divinity.

But the unvaccinated are not innocent, you say. They have made a choice that puts the rest of us in danger, therefore they are guilty and deserve every form of punishment that comes their way. After all, choices have consequences.

But what are the unvaccinated supposed to be guilty of? It is literally the case that they haven’t done anything. The only thing we can safely assume about them as a whole is their innocence.

It is not the unvaccinated continuing to gather in large numbers; it is not the unvaccinated who hop on planes the first chance they get during a pandemic to visit resorts, attend rock concerts, or baseball games. No, these liberties have been taken from them. 

The burden on hospitals is another red-herring, designed as red-meat for the vaccine hawks seeking an explanation for their catastrophic policy failures, including the reduction of intensive care capacity in many jurisdictions during the pandemic, if you can believe it.  

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that the unvaccinated place a disproportionate burden on the healthcare system, and let’s ignore that there are many such populations that have long since existed. Still, simple arithmetic indicates that this insidious category is almost totally irrelevant. There are millions of unvaccinated people in Canada, of which a vanishingly small proportion will end up in hospital. Is this really and truly any way to evaluate a huge cross-section of the population, a method that in other contexts we rightly abhor?

You could, for example, reorganize hospital groups according to age and co-morbidities, risk factors better placed to predict COVID hospitalizations. And even then, an overwhelming majority, into the 90+ percentile, of those reorganized cohorts, will never darken the door of a hospital because of the virus, not even as out-patients.  

Thinking this way is driven by a hyper-focused policy oriented around vaccinating everyone it has nothing to do with reason, and does nothing to protect the right of individuals to make their own medical choices. 

Vaccine or Lockdown, A False Choice

Well, you might ask, what should governments do, if not impose mass vaccination? Are you pro-lockdown then? This narrative, being pushed the world over, presents us with a false choice, one that has paved the way towards disproportionate and indeed unprecedented government intrusion into civil society and the lives of ordinary citizens and their families.  

It is important to bear in mind that the potential damage of extended lockdowns was never mooted as part of the public debate about whether to institute them. This is particularly strange since these costs could have been predicted with a much greater degree of certainty than the spread or damage of the virus, because, unlike the virus, these policies are something inside our control. But we decided to turn lockdowns into something unpredictable too, since anything you do not think about is, by definition, unknown. 

But of course many of the effects of lockdown were entirely predictable. Given the disruption to global supply chains, the rise of global poverty could have been easily foreseen, as could the devastating affects on mental health, the rise in domestic and child abuse, the destruction of business and culture, and the burden placed on other areas of healthcare.  

None of these would have taken mathematical wizardry to foresee and include in our deliberations about how best to address the threat of the virus. Everyone knows you do not burn down the house to destroy the wasp nest. 

We have traded relative certainty for wild speculation. A good example of this way of thinking in Nova Scotia are the mooted healthcare worker mandates. The rationale offered by Public Health for firing workers in a time of shortages is that vaccinated workers would quit if the unvaccinated are not culled. That is mere speculation. There’s no way of knowing if that’s true. It’s simply hypothetical. What is certain, however, is that mandates will mean the unvaccinated will lose their jobs.

Let us offer a little counter-speculation of our own. I would suggest there is much more reason to believe that vaccinated healthcare workers will not quit should their unvaccinated colleagues be allowed to stay on, since many will have been vaccinated precisely so they could keep their jobs. If they were genuinely afraid of the unvaccinated in their ranks, they would have quit already. No, the rational position would be to call the bluff of those baying for blood who have not demonstrated anything like the moral conviction of the unvaccinated, for reasons outlined above. But the reality is there is no political will to do so because public sentiment has been poisoned against the unvaccinated. The scapegoating mechanism wants to see these people punished. The “science,” morality, and prudential reasoning be damned. 

Government energy would be better spent cultivating the middle ground between these extremes, limiting themselves to supporting institutions most affected by the pandemic, rather than singling out citizens for punishment.

Neither the virus, nor the choices individuals see fit to make for themselves and those they love or care for, are things that can be controlled by bureaucratic fiat. Instead of running roughshod over the rights of free citizens, and crossing our fingers that a rushed and unproven medical treatment will save the day, perhaps we should make our healthcare system more robust, or take steps to protect those most vulnerable to the virus? 

Such measures would be more effective and would not damage the morale of citizens, as virtually all the policy choices taken to this point have done. But so much common sense is too much to hope for when people have allowed their minds to become captured by the ruthless logic of the scapegoating mechanism. 

Scapegoating is a blame game; its driving force is vengeance. As our culture used to know, the appetite for vengeance cannot be satisfied until a scapegoat steps forward to sate it, thereby exposing the folly of the mob by absorbing its implicit violence.

At present, vengeance against the unvaccinated involves a drive to break their will through shame and coercion. Failing that, they should be fined or even imprisoned, a course of action they have already settled on in places like Austria. To extend the logic, as some in our wanton Canadian media have, if they should die, no tears will or should be shed. We are inching closer to finishing this thought with every editorial published demanding that the unvaccinated should be refused healthcare, or have to pay some kind of premium to deserve it. So much for “universal” healthcare and the ethical vision on which it was based.

The moral burden of the lockdown policies and indeed the continued existence of the virus itself have been foisted upon the shoulders of the unvaccinated. Here is another irony, since the unvaccinated represent the portion of the population that would have been the group most likely to have opposed the introduction of most lockdown measures. This is the height of perversity, but it is a perversity that the scapegoat mechanism predicts: it is the innocent who must pay the price for the sins of the guilty. The vaccinated politician imposed the lockdowns, therefore it must be the unvaccinated citizen who opposed lockdowns that must be held responsible for the damage they caused.  

Innocent Children

This brings me to what is perhaps the most worrying upshot of the wholesale scapegoating of the unvaccinated. The primary target by default is now children, the least vaccinated cohort by age group.  

Hitherto there has been no compelling reason to vaccinate children against the virus except in the rarest of circumstances. The seasonal flu, experts agree, is more dangerous. That being the case, what could possibly justify the most recent pivot to target our children for mass vaccination? Could it be that they are being used as shields by adults?  There is no other rational explanation.  This on its own is a gross violation of normative medical ethics, which, paired with the natural innocence of children, makes the push to vaccinate children en masse altogether and in every way unconscionable.

As grisly as this effort may seem on its face, the scapegoating mechanism teaches that there may be an even uglier and darker truth at work here: might we be treating our children as a kind of science experiment, just to see what happens? 

This is not idle speculation. Consider, for example, the reasoning proffered by FDA advisor, Harvard Professor, and Editor-in-Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Eric Rubin, who conceded when discussing the vaccination of children that “…we’re never going to learn about how safe this vaccine is unless we start giving it. That’s just the way it goes.” Just following the science – nothing to see here.  

Let that sink in: our children are being made available for a massive experiment to inoculate them against a virus that poses the vast majority of them very-little-to-no danger.  

Fact-checkers have attempted to cover for this startling admission by saying that the licensing of the vaccine for children will allow those who need it to get it; the vaccine will not be mandated for children until we have more long-term data. This is disingenuous, to say the least. 

In many countries there have been no restrictions placed on childhood vaccination between 5-11 years old. The propaganda campaign to ensure maximal and indiscriminate uptake has been underway across Western countries for months. In the Maritime provinces, for example, they have already vaccinated over half of children between 5-11 years old.  

The first and last line of defence that protects the innocence of the child is his parents. During Coronatide, parents have been subjected to a relentless misinformation campaign conducted by public health officials. Many parents have either been scared into vaccinating their children, or else they have used their children to signal their virtue to the world. Just have a look at social media. When is the last time you posted a picture online of your child’s medical procedure for the world to gawk at? Such exhibitionism is now unremarkable, even expected in certain circles ruled by COVID hysteria. I was not surprised to discover that many vaccination centres have themselves set up photo booths to capture the post-jab kodak moment.

Again, the scapegoating mechanism helps us to understand the tendency of human beings to use and abuse children and the young in times of emergency. Child sacrifice has been a fixture in even the most advanced civilizations down the ages until Christianity wiped it out. The genius of the Christian religion understood that civilizations that endorse the sacrifice of their young spell their own doom. Early Christians did not need to look any further than the once great Greek civilization on their doorstep, to whose culture they were heirs.  

The Greeks themselves predicted their own downfall. Just think of the legends that grew up around the Trojan war. When Hecuba, Queen of Troy, left her son Paris in the wilderness to die, fearing a prophecy that predicted he would one day cause the fall of his kingdom, her preemptive act sealed the fate of that great city. Paris was rescued, brought up without the love of his parents that all children crave, and became a selfish man. He stole another man’s wife, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Or take Agamemnon, the general of the Greek army that lay siege to Troy, who sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia, so the sea winds would carry his impatient troops across the Aegean to war. His army would conquer Troy, but this bloody deed brought down his household and with it his own kingdom. 

There are no more Trojans or ancient Greeks in the world, to say nothing of Romans or Aztecs.   

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

The master of the witticism, Mark Twain, once pointed out that there are three principal forms of deception, which he rehearsed in ascending order of moral gravity: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Joseph Stalin observed something similar when he is reported to have said, “one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths are a statistic.” Both good and wicked men know that statistics provide an excellent cover for the work of deception and the consolidation of power.

In Coronatide, we have been bombarded with statistics, including “cases,” death counts, and scientific papers or opinion pieces telling us what “the data” show. The entire lockdown policy itself was predicated on mathematical models, based on nothing more than the combination of scant and unreliable data and the manipulation of numbers.   

One way statistics have been used to deceive us during the pandemic was the conflation of those who died with and those who died from Corona. In Germany, it has recently come out that as many as 30% of deaths attributed to COVID were in fact caused primarily by factors other than the virus. An even higher percentage has been estimated recently in the UK.

Another way we were misled by statistics had to do with claims about “vaccine effectiveness” – 95%, they told us! That the absolute risk reduction was negligible was not the headline – the headline was designed to make it seem like only a fool could turn down the jab. No allowance was made for the possibility of reduced effectiveness in the real world over time; the likely need for boosters due to vaccine failures, deceptively dubbed “breakthrough cases” (language invented to imply how rare these events are, which as we now know are anything but); the mutation of the virus to become less virulent making the absolute risk reduction even smaller; the possible development of less invasive treatments over time; the unstudied yet open possibility of long-term adverse effects; the possibility you may not catch the virus at all, or indeed that you may already have natural immunity that offers better protection than the current iteration of the vaccines is able to do.  

No, we were told they reduce harm by 95%, so “just get vaccinated.”

Another commonplace distortion of statistical data was to represent small sample sizes in terms of a percentage, like we often do in Nova Scotia. It works like this: there are four people in the ICU with Corona, three of whom were not vaccinated (but perhaps one or two were jabbed in the last two weeks, but we don’t get that data). You don’t use the real numbers as the headline – they are not scary enough. Instead, you trot out the percentage: 75 % of people in Intensive Care are unvaccinated! And be sure to put it that way; don’t go around saying 25% are not. 

The other reason to gloss over real ICU numbers, unless they are large enough to paint a dire picture, is that the emergency powers our governments currently wield are predicated on there being an actual emergency. Four people in the ICU does not constitute an emergency. Numbers comparable to hospital surges in other years do not constitute an emergency. And so, you see, we must speak in terms of percentages. These are all ways of using numbers to bring about a preordained outcome, a single purpose: to increase vaccine uptake and to scapegoat the refuseniks.  

The Forgiveness Mechanism

In a fluid situation, full of uncertaintywhich, if nothing else, Coronatide has most certainly proven to be what we are left with is trust. Trust is a precious and fragile thing. Most of what we do in life is predicated on it. One of the great accomplishments of Western democracies is the high level of trust that exists between and among the citizenry, and the confidence we have in our institutions. The willingness of populations to lockdown, and even take the “emergency use” or “interim order” vaccines, represent a kind of proof of that achievement.  

But from the point of view of the unvaccinated and indeed a growing number of vaccinated citizens in Canada and across the world, our leaders have squandered that trust during Coronatide.  

The unvaccinated and those who share their views about the importance of our protecting our liberties, freedoms that cannot and should not be dropped at the first sign of trouble, are a witness to the dwindling levels of trust in our political leadership. 


If a Justin Trudeau, Joe Biden, or the newly elected German Chancellor Olaf Scholz can change his mind on something so fundamental as vaccine mandates, why should we trust in their “just get vaccinated” mantra? If they can falsely claim that vaccination can stop the spread of the virus, why should we believe anything else they have to say on the subject? Trust, after all, is a two-way street.

The failure of our governments to remain trustworthy, to keep a steady hand on the tiller in the stormy seas of the pandemic, is still another reason to resist their ongoing efforts to reduce individual citizens to herd animals.  

The deep fallacy at work in those rushing to scapegoat the unvaccinated is that they themselves cannot have played a unique role in the messy state of affairs in which we find ourselves. This is the world we all made. You cannot assign collective guilt and then exempt yourself from blame, because in this case you believe yourself to have done the right thing. What a silly idea, one that defies common sense, if common sense were still allowed to have its say. 

Would you assess your life as a whole based on a single, good moral decision? Does this exempt you from decent behaviour in other areas of your life? Is the vaccinated felon morally superior to the law-abiding unvaccinated citizen? When it comes to healthy lifestyle choices is the unvaccinated professional athlete less virtuous than the vaccinated overweight smoker who ends up in the ICU? Or is the unvaccinated nurse, who worked tirelessly through the pandemic when there were no vaccines, suddenly immoral because of this single decision to decline a novel treatment?

Where I live in Bavaria, beer, pretzels, and sausage are a way of life. Their sale generates millions, perhaps billions, in tax revenue and creates countless jobs. That revenue pays for hospitals, fosters community, and keeps politicians in office. Strictly speaking, this industry is not good for the health of Bavarians. Shall we do a poll at the ICU based on beer and bread consumption, or should we keep track of those who habitually skip yoga class and protein shakes for an alcoholic beverage and salted bread at the beer garden? 

I have taken a long time to say something very simple. Look carefully enough, and we will all see our own role in the ills that plague society. Corona is the tip of the iceberg, or perhaps it’s better compared to a mirror. Mirrors are especially useful for studying yourself – they make it easier to see the log in our own eye, and draw our attention away from shining a spotlight on the speck in our neighbour’s. 

To win back the trust that has made one of Canada the great places to live in the world, we need to give up the scapegoating and return to the work of forgiveness, the truth and reconciliation that has made us the good, if flawed, country that we are.  

Scapegoating always ends in vengeance and violence. Only forgiveness can give us the peace we all so desperately seek to make our best laid plans, and forgiveness is only possible when it is freely offered. “The right thing to do” is, and can only ever be, a free choice. It cannot be dictated over Zoom from a cottage in the wilderness. 

The right thing to do is to forgive those who make choices we disagree with, assume the goodness lying behind their intentions unless given compelling reason to believe otherwise, and do our utmost not to ruin the trust on which free institutions are built, including our healthcare system. Persuasion, not coercion, should guide us. 

I acknowledge this is a disappointing philosophy for those who are sure they know what the right thing to do is. But in complex circumstances, when good people find themselves in disagreement, the only other kind of philosophy possible takes us to much darker places than a virus ever could.


James Bryson is a philosopher and theologian. He holds a PhD from Cambridge, is a former SSHRC postdoctoral Fellow and lecturer at McGill, a Research Associate of the Cambridge Divinity Faculty, and currently a Humboldt Fellow at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. James is a Nova Scotian, born and raised.


The Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association (NSCLA) is dedicated to delivering effective, evidence-based information and resources that will allow Nova Scotia citizens to make informed decisions regarding their civil liberties. The NSCLA is currently focused on a short-list of strategic COVID-19 related cases for litigation in Nova Scotia court, as well as Federal court. Several cases will have nation-wide implications. The NSCLA is 100% privately funded and receives no government grants. If you wish to donate to the NSCLA legal fund please visit our donations page or for larger donations, Email directly to make arrangements. Each case is expected to exceed $40,000 in legal fees, which does not account for the inevitability of reaching the appeals court. We need your help to build up our legal "war chest" as quickly as possible so that we can begin filing these cases to start making real progress in gaining back the civil liberties that have been lost over the last two years.