Will Not Control COVID-19 Contagion
Mobilize the People Not the Police to Solve the Problem of COVID-19 Contagion
youth have taken up their responsibility to the future of their
society, as shown in this climate march May 17, 2019. They demand
social and political solutions to the problems of society, including
how to deal with the pandemic, not to have their behaviour criminalized.
On October 1, the Quebec government issued a decree setting
new containment measures in response to the numerous outbreaks of
COVID-19 throughout Quebec. These outbreaks confirm that the
second wave of the pandemic has begun and several "red zones"
have been identified.
These measures are
accompanied by new police powers announced
separately by Premier François Legault and Security Minister
Geneviève Guilbault. The police interventions are mainly
- If they have reason to suspect
that exceed the confinement standards are taking place in homes, the
police will intervene in the homes to stop the gathering and can impose
a $1,000 fine.
- If people refuse to allow the police
their dwelling, the police can quickly obtain an online telewarrant
from a judge to enter the dwelling and issue a statement of offence.
Anyone participating in a demonstration must now wear a mask. Police
officers will also be equipped with the means to quickly issue $1,000
tickets. The same measure applies to gatherings in parks.
on the 50th anniversary of the invocation of the War Measures Act on
October 16, 1970, the offensive character of these measures is
particularly regrettable. The youth point to the
irony of using criminal measures to sort out social problems.
Previously they were criminalized for wearing masks at
demonstrations and now not wearing a mask is a criminal offence.
They point out that then and now the youth are demanding
political and social solutions to problems. They oppose the
criminalization of all of life where people are blamed for the
problems and the state and its governments and agencies gets off
measures announced by Premier Legault are similar
to those in other provinces. They serve as an
indication that the liberal democratic institutions have become
ineffective in creating public opinion to persuade the population
about the necessity of something.
case, most people do not appear to be opposed to safety
measures such as wearing masks, but they do not see the necessity to
treat it as a police matter. They
deplore the government's refusal to ensure that safe conditions
exist in the schools, hospitals and seniors homes where the
pressure on the staff is very great. This is because the overall
thrust of the governments in Canada is not to protect the people but to
pay the rich and blame
the people when things do not go according to their schemes. The
inability of the state and governments to mobilize the people in the
fight against the pandemic will not be solved by giving more powers to
the police. In fact, this will only exacerbate the problems and will
not solve the crisis of the institutions.
well, media promote what they call "conspiracy theorists" who claim
that orders to wear masks, or stay home, or not gather in large numbers
are an infringement on the right to conscience as well as rights
enshrined in the Charter
of Rights and Freedoms.
The claim is that they pose a danger to the security of the population
and deserve to be criminalized. It is doubtful that their
would sustain a Charter challenge given
that the limitations
imposed during COVID-19 would likely be considered "reasonable" by any
court of law. What this propaganda does achieve, however, is to
how the issue of rights poses itself, the role of the state and
governments in using police powers to dictate the direction they want
society to take and the fact that the people are deprived of access to
the decision-making power.
upholding the right to conscience be juxtaposed with
putting the lives of others in danger? Looking at matters
this way, there is a problem when the state demands that people support
limits" when they play no role whatsoever in deciding what is
A serious problem governments face is
that a majority of
people are dissatisfied with the political system. They have no
confidence in the institutions. This disillusionment with the
political system and distrust of the institutions has been
deepening for decades. Instead of solving the problem by
affirming the role of the people in decision-making, the ruling
elites resort to diversions to justify activating their police
At the moment there are tens of thousands
of teachers fighting
every day to guarantee their safety and that of their students,
but the government prevents them from playing the decisive role
which belongs to them in deciding how to proceed. It is refusing to
even listen to the demands to fund enough personal or safety
ventilation even though problems such as COVID-19 are likely to
become more common in future.
health care workers demonstrate outside the national assembly in Quebec
City, May 19, 2020. They demand that ministerial orders not be used to
curtail their rights and prevent them from taking measures to protect
their safety and that of their patients during the pandemic.
are tens of thousands of workers in the health system
who are putting their lives on the line to treat the population
and find solutions to the crisis. The government responds with
ministerial orders so that it can treat workers like pawns on
chess board and thinks it can keep control of the situation that
There are currently hundreds of thousands of
workers fighting to maintain the measures they have put in place
to protect themselves, but management has been given license to
run enterprises with no regard for the needs of the work force.
They are blocking the workers outright and overturning their
initiatives despite the fact that the
coronavirus does not obey their orders.
mass of youth want nothing more than to be
responsible toward society but they too are not respected.
At a time when
neo-liberal globalization will give free rein to
even more pandemics and contagions, liberal democratic
institutions are in crisis. To believe that real problems can be
sorted out without the all-out political and ideological
mobilization of the human factor/social consciousness is foolish.
Turning social and political problems into law and order problems
is not only foolish, it is irresponsible. When lives are at
stake, it should be considered criminal. It is certainly
diversionary and the working people should respond by demanding
that adequate measures be put in place to ensure the safety of
the population in all aspects of life.
governments to accuse individuals of being socially
irresponsible when the people have no mechanisms to hold them to
account shows that the main problem facing the working people is
how to organize themselves socially and politically to renew the
democratic process. A political process worthy of the name
democratic would not bring governments to power which pay the
rich and wield the decision-making processes in their interests.
Social and political problems require social and political
solutions, not the criminalization of the people. No to Rule by
Decree! Police powers only concentrate decision-making in fewer
hands. New social and political forms have to be created to vest
the people with decision-making power.
This article was published in
Volume 50 Number 38 - October 10, 2020
Will Not Control COVID-19 Contagion: Mobilize the People Not the Police to Solve the Problem of COVID-19 Contagion - Normand Chouinard