Jul 272021

SUMMARY: Some restaurateurs, gyms and others have begun posting signs saying that they will deny service to those who have had a Covid-19 injection, or saying that they will deny service to those who have not had a Covid-19 injection. Such discrimination pigeon-holes every individual, segregates society into two collectives, de-individualizes and dehumanizes everyone, and undermines the consent-based human mode of social interaction. Free market forces cannot and will not restore a society in which every adult is dealt with as a unique, thinking, choosing, individual. A serious consideration of philosophy and the nature of human beings makes it clear that government must intervene to stop businesses and others from denying service to – or otherwise discriminating against – individuals based upon whether or not they have had a Covid-19 injection. The time for the Ford government of Ontario – and for all other governments – to ban such discriminatory practices is now.

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Ontario’s provincial government says it will not be issuing a “vaccine passport” to those who have been injected with one of the anti-Covid injections recently rushed into production. However, the government has been silent about whether it will allow businesses to deny service on the basis of whether someone has been injected. As a result, some businesses have announced that they will deny access/service to the injected, while others have announced that they will deny access/service to the non-injected. And so the question has arisen among those of us who value their freedom: Would a law against denying service to the injected/non-injected be a defence of freedom, or would it be a violation of freedom?

The Facts

There is a newly-developing practice, by some businesses and others, of denying service to those who have had a Covid-19 injection, or to those who have not had a Covid-19 injection. There also are advocates for such denial’s of service. As examples:

And, while businesses – not hearing from the government whether businesses will be permitted to deny service to injected or to not-injected people – have been busy making up their own discriminatory policies, some people with letters after their names, thinking that that makes them in everything from medicine, to economics, to governance – have been very active in attempting to get the government to facilitate denial-of-service to those who have not been injected, by promoting the idea that the injected should have documentary evidence that they can show to businesses etc. to prove that they have been injected. As examples:

  • a July 22, 2021 report that appeared in Torstar newspapers stated that:

    “The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has released a list of considerations for the implementation of vaccine passports in the province, despite premier Doug Ford recently expressing his disapproval of that type of certification…science table experts suggested there would be a short-term economic benefit for the province to implement some form of vaccine certification, as it could “enable the reopening of high-risk settings sooner and/or at increased capacity…” (https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/10441472-ontario-science-table-considering-benefits-of-vaccine-passports/)

  • on July 22, 2021, a particularly outspoken member of that Science Advisory Table, University of Toronto epidemiologist David Fisman, tweeted (among other things) on Twitter that “I cannot imagine that we’re going to let a small and unreasonable minority hold back our economy and trash our healthcare system this fall. Vaccine passports now.” (https://twitter.com/DFisman/status/1418164825918693378)

And, Ontario Premier Doug Ford having stated on July 15, 2021 that Ontario will not issue a “vaccine passport” to those who are injected (see https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/we-re-not-gonna-have-a-split-society-doug-ford-rules-out-a-provincial-vaccine-passport-1.5510704), those wanting vaccine passports despite Ford’s rejection of them have instead started to call them “vaccine certificates”, presumably in the hope that it will give Ford a chance to reverse himself without appearing to do so. A July 22, 2021 report by CTV news stated:

“Infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch says we have to be ‘open-minded’ on the idea of vaccine certificates.” (https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2246360)

Indeed, even that sort of word jugglery may be unnecessary because Ford’s Solicitor General has explained the government’s opinion that “if needed, Ontarians fully who are vaccinated against COVID-19 can rely on the receipt printed or emailed to them after their second shot.” (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-july-14-2021-ltc-testing-changes-1.6102104). In other words: it is doubtful that the Ford government has decided against facilitating the denial of access/services/goods to those who have not been injected.

In short, the concern about discriminatory denial-of-service to the injected, or to the not-injected, is warranted. The discrimination already is underway. The question is what, if anything, the government should do about it.


There certainly are those who think that the answer to every such problem is economic. Such people typically identify as “libertarian”, and have little time or patience for philosophy. Many fall into the “anarcho-capitalist” camp, and believe that a free society would result if we just got rid of government altogether and left all problems to the push-and-pull of economic forces. However, rather than point fingers, I will simply refer to everyone who takes the view that a free market is all one needs to attain a free society as: economyopic.

As applied to Covid-19 injections, an economyopic might argue along the following lines:

“If a business does not want to serve the injected, or does not want to serve the non-injected, that is their business. The government should not intervene. If one business refuses the non-injected, another will pop-up to serve that market”.

This is no different than the argument, found among economyopics, that:

“If a business refuses to serve someone of a certain skin colour, or sex, or sexual orientation, or gender, or disability, or religion, etc., another will pop-up to serve that market”.

It is a view necessarily shared by those who regard the segregation of various Man-made collectives to be consistent with a free society. I do not share that view, but let us consider whether the economyopic view is true, independently of a consideration of the segregation it necessarily implies.

First, consider that there is evidence that offering service to people who have been denied service by others does not at all guarantee that you will actually be able to provide them with service (or that you will be able to do so for long). For example, the success of a social media site depends not merely upon whether one can post to it – nor upon what can and cannot be posted – but, much more importantly, whether anyone will see what is posted. I discovered this 21 years ago, when I started a discussion board on a then hobby-website I had started in response to newspapers who would make no mention of any electoral candidates other than those of the parties already having seats in a legislature (mondopolitico.com). I quickly discovered that people who have something to say are not interested in saying it to a new, hence very small audience. Those who make an effort to say something want an already-existing large audience to hear it. For that reason, they are willing to put up with a lot of abuse from a social media site that has a large audience to offer. The result: once the twitters, and facebooks, and youtubes of the world become the go-to place for content, it is almost impossible to get those who post at those sites to move over to another platform with a relatively tiny audience. The result is that new competitors, in such circumstances, typically fail and cease to exist in short order. In short: when the social media giants ban the posting of messages they do not want on their platforms, the messages may not get out at all and, if they do, they might not stay out for long.

That brings us to a related problem for the economyopic theory that competitors will spring up and serve those who other businesses have denied service: there’s more than one way to kill a competitor. One way is to move up the chain. Let us imagine that you had decided to set up your own discussion board, and allow people to post non-mainstream views on such subjects as climate change and coronavirus. Do not be surprised to receive a notice from your internet service provider to the effect that it is denying you service because the content you allow is contrary to its own policies on facilitating the communication of such views. Or, if that internet service provider is not denying you service, the telephone company whose lines are used by the internet service provider might warn the provider that, unless it stops hosting sites such as yours, the telephone company will deny service to the internet service provider. This game can be played all day. Moreover, it is usually played by politically-motivated people threatening to name-and-shame any company that is willing to serve or otherwise facilitate the communication of certain views. A multitude of other examples could be provided along these lines. For example, read Daniel Yurgin’s “The Prize” (https://www.amazon.ca/Prize-Epic-Quest-Money-Power/dp/1439110123) to learn about how Standard Oil’s wealth and size allowed it to get rail companies to charge Standard Oil’s competitors, and to hand over to Standard Oil, a fee for using the rail services used by Standard Oil. The point, in such examples, is that there is more to surviving than just deciding to offer service to people who have been denied service: there often are insurmountable barriers to actually making it happen, especially in a politically-charged time such as the present.

There also are businesses that one could not even begin to start. Try starting a cross-Canada railroad company in a country that cannot even resolve land use disputes over something less scary than an alleged pandemic, such as oil pipelines. Try starting a highly-regulated telephone company that serves internet service providers that serve websites that allow their users to spread messages that the other telephone companies effectively prohibit: how will you do that without access to their phone lines? Try starting a health care system that doesn’t threaten health care providers with losing their licences for treating patients with politically-prohibited drugs or treatments, especially where the government has given itself a tax-funded monopoly. Try building a stadium that denies service to nobody: try getting professional sports team owners to have their teams play there; try getting concert promoters to book your facility if they risk being named and shamed. Try building an airline company that uses large airports; airports that still use the threat of terrorism to justify having a look at your genitalia to make sure you’re not carrying a gun, etc.

I am not suggesting that competition is somehow something bad. To the contrary, free market competition – were it ever permitted – is essential for any free society. However, it is both naive and demonstrably false to argue, in any currently-existing society on the planet, that if the government just butts-out, competing goods or services providers will rise and successfully serve those who have been denied service by other businesses.

That said, even were it possible to solve all denial-of-service problems via market competition, that would not imply that the result would be consistent with individual freedom. Is a society in which individuals are effectively cubby-holed and segregated into different collectives, so as to be denied service by a guy who doesn’t want to serve you because he sees you not as a unique individual, but as member of a collective (i.e., “one of the blacks”, “one of the gays”, “one of those people with AIDS or hepatitis”, “a Jew”, “an old fart”, “an anti-vaxxer” etc.) a society of free individual human beings? Is it a truly free society? I submit that no, such a society is not a society of free individual human beings and it is not a free society. However, one must look beyond the specialized field of economics to understand why that is the case.


To get a proper answer to the question of whether government should prevent denials of service to those who have been injected (or those who have not) one must turn not to a myopic investigation of economic knowledge but, more fundamentally, to knowledge about the nature of individual freedom, which is philosophic knowledge.

Thinking and Choosing Makes One Human

Trade occurs strictly among humans (historically referred to as “Man”). “Man”, said Aristotle, is the “rational animal”. In other words, he is an animal whose most essential distinguishing characteristic is not his opposing thumb, or her skin colour, or his sexual orientation, or her gender, or his religion, or her first language, but the one thing that is common to all human beings: their capacity to reason. In other words, we are humans – and nothing other – because we have a unique ability to think and choose.

In fact, we could not live without that ability. We lack the instincts of other animals. Humans have no instinct that causes them to drill a well, or to study astrophysics. The ability to construct a farm tractor and a plow is not the automatic result of glandular squirtings or brain evolution. To live as humans do, one must think and choose; one must reason.

Only Humans Trade to Live Because Only Humans Can Do So

In a society that divides labour – i.e., in which some people produce food, or housing, or automobiles; in which others perform medical, legal, or janitorial services etc. – individuals must trade with others to get the various goods and services they need or want. Typically, to facilitate trade, everyone demands dollars in exchange for their goods or services.

Trading – especially trading money for goods and services – is unique to human beings. It is not unique to them because worms find trading tiresome. It is unique because only human beings have the rational capacity required for such a mode of survival. Only humans are “the rational animal”. If human beings could not reason, there would be no such thing as trade or economics.

Trade Requires Mutual Consent, So Only Humans Trade

The power of reason is used in many ways. However, with respect to trade, reason is used by an individual to decide whether or not she will give her consent to the trade. When two parties consent, a trade can occur. Each party gets something one wants for having given something that the other person wants.

However, when the first of two parties withholds consent, so the other party takes from the first person her life, liberty, or property without her consent, the result is not a trade between human beings. The result, instead, is a murder, an enslavement, a sexual assault, a theft, etc. of a human being by an animal that has decided to obtain what it wants not by the unique human method of dealing with others – i.e., not by consensual relations – but by the non-human, irrational method of a tiger, a wolf, or a bloodsucker. The human party gets nothing for something, and the vampire who treats humans as prey gets something for nothing.

The Moral Wrongfulness of Prejudice

There are certainly times at which the identity of the would-be buyer or seller is a legitimate and morally proper consideration when deciding whether or not to consent to a trade. For example, if a gun vendor knows that the would-be buyer is buying the gun so as to commit a murder, it is morally wrong to consent to the sale of the gun to the buyer. If the would-be buyer of a product or services knows that seller uses slave labour to produce the product or provide the service, it is morally wrong for the would-be buyer to consent to the purchase of the product. These denials of trade are morally right because they are informed refusals knowingly and actively to facilitate the non-consensual taking of another person’s life, liberty, or property.

However, there are also times when the identity of the would-be buyer or seller is an illegitimate and immoral consideration when deciding whether or not to consent to a trade. If a vendor refuses to sell a shotgun to a person because the vendor thinks to himself “people with skin of that colour use shotguns to murder people”, he has rendered an assessment of the would-be buyer prejudiciously, because he has no idea whatsoever whether the would-be buyer in particular has any inclination to murder someone. Similarly, if a would-be buyer refuses to shop in someone’s store because the would-be buyer thinks to himself “people of that store-owner’s religion are likely to be using their profits to fund religious fanaticism around the globe”, the would-be buyer has rendered an assessment of the vendor prejudiciously, because the would-be buyer has no idea whatsoever whether the vendor has any inclination to use his money to fund religious fanaticism. He knows only that the vendor practises a given religion about which the would-be buyer has made a sweeping generalization.

To Collectivise and Prejudge Is to De-individualize and De-humanize

In cases of prejudice, the prejudicial person is de-humanizing someone. When a person looks at you and decides that you are not “an individual”, but are instead merely “an Asian”, or “a lesbian”, or “a Muslim” – or “one of the non-injected” – he is denying you your status as a thinking, choosing, individual human being. He is treating you as being incapable of acting differently from other “members” of the collective into which he has pidgeon-holed you.

In his mind, you are not essentially a “rational animal”; you are not a human, like he thinks himself to be. In his mind, you are just another irrational and utterly predictable barnyard animal of one of the various species he has grouped people into and about which he has made a host of sweeping generalizations.

In his mind, you can’t help but be a murderer, a child molestor, a religious terrorist, et cetera because he deems you to be a member of a collective whose members he has prejudged to be prone to such activities. In his mind, “if it walks like a duck, it’s a duck”, even before that “duck” has opened her mouth. Before he even has met you, he is sure that he knows everything he needs to know about “ducks” like you, and that, therefore, he knows all he needs to know to decide whether or not to trade with you.

The Purpose of the Law

Contrary to widely-held belief, the purpose of the law is not to make people do only morally good things. The law does not prevent you from drinking gasoline, nor from eating yourself into unhealthy obesity, nor from paying a vendor $300 for a pet rock. There are many bad decisions that no law will prevent you from making, and – when you make such a bad decision – you will pay a personal price for doing so. Preventing you from frittering your life away is not the purpose of the law.

The purpose of the law is to ensure that you do not take anyone else’s life, liberty, or property from him without his consent. The reason for this purpose is simple: when you take someone’s life, liberty, or property without his consent, you obviate (i.e., dispense with) that person’s rational faculty. In other words: you dehumanize him. Specifically, you deal with him not in the consensual manner that human beings interact, but as prey. And to dehumanize your victim, you first dehumanize yourself: you decide to act not as “rational animal”, but as a tapeworm, ditching the humanity that requires you to think and earn, in an irrational attempt to get something for nothing.

The law does not prevent you only from taking someone’s material things without their consent. It also prevents you from getting spiritual things by inhuman means, and from cheating others out of spiritual things. For example, it outlaws cheating at sports so that you do not thereby obtain unearned admiration of sports fans. It outlaws falsifying the information on a bank-loan so that you do not thereby obtain from bank officers the confidence that you have not earned. It outlaws defamation, so that you do not trick the public into forgoing the spiritual (or material) value of dealing or associating with the person you have defamed.

Why is the defence of your life, liberty, and property the essential purpose of the law? Because laws are written for human beings. In other words: laws – proper laws – recognize and defend the fact that human beings must be free to live life as human beings if they are to survive and achieve any sort of happiness in this life.

Human Rights Laws, Human Nature, and Free Societies

Various jurisdictions, including the province of Ontario, have made laws – sometimes called “human rights” laws – that prohibit renters, sellers, and contractors from discriminating against people in de-humanizing ways. They specify certain “grounds” or reasons pursuant to which a person may not treat people differently.

Some of the grounds of non-discrimination concern things that it would be physically impossible for a person to change. These include things relating to one’s genetic make-up (e.g., “race” or sex), to one’s age, to one’s disability, etc..

However, other grounds of non-discrimination concern things that a person has the physical ability to change – or to pretend to change – but which the government has concluded no person should be required to change. These include things such as religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc..

Common to both sorts of non-discrimination grounds is the ultimate reason for disallowing discriminatory treatment. Specifically, laws against discrimination on these grounds require landlords, goods/services providers, and contractors to deal with all individuals as rational individuals: as thinking, choosing, human beings. They require everyone to deal with every individual as a reasoning entity – hence as an individual human being – rather than as a prejudged member of an alleged collective or group. Human rights laws, when properly drafted, outlaw the dehumanization of human beings, in defence of the uniquely human mode of social interaction: consensual relations. They are aimed at preserving your freedom to live, among others, as a human being.

The Legality of Discrimination on the Basis of Injection Status

If you have had a Covid-19 injection, denying you service for that reason is akin to denying you service because of something you cannot change, such as your genetic make-up or place of birth. For example, if you have your breasts removed to reduce the likelihood of developing cancer, you cannot reverse that decision. Likewise, if you have received a Covid-19 injection, you cannot reverse that decision. In each case, the body you had differs from the body you now have, but you remain a human being; a rational animal. When you are treated as such, you are not treated as a de-individualized “one of that group”, and you are judged only as the unique, thinking, choosing individual you remain.

If you have not had a Covid-19 injection, denying you service for that reason is akin to denying you service because of something you could change – or pretend to change – such as your religion, sexual orientation, or gender. In each case, if you did change – for example, if you did get a Covid-19 injection – the body you had would differ from the body you now have, but you would remain a human being; a rational animal. Again, when you are treated as such, you are not treated as a de-individualized “one of that group”, and you are judged only as the unique, thinking, choosing individual you remain.

Accordingly, to deny you accommodation, or employment, or access to a venue, or goods or services, because you have or have not been injected is to divide humanity into two collectives, and to deal with you merely as “one of that collective”; to de-individualize you; to de-humanize you. Such discrimination segregates society into two groups, demonizes one of them, and treats everyone not as human beings but as members of two herds of cattle, dehumanizing both herds.

Are the Non-Injected Dehumanizing Everyone?

Of course, advocates of mandatory vaccination or vaccine passports will surely argue that if there is a chance that you are unwittingly infected with Coronavirus, there is a chance that you unwittingly will infect others with it. Therefore – they might continue – you are taking a person’s life, liberty, or property without their consent. You are dehumanizing people by obviating the need to obtain their consent to infect them.

You can file that argument under “nice try”. Every day, all of the time, for the entire history of humanity, viruses and bacteria have traveled from one person to another. Humanity has survived, nonetheless, because human beings have a thing called an immune system that naturally copes with the countless viral and bacterial infections that each of us undergo, usually without ever knowing we are infected. Infection with viruses or bacteria is the constant condition of every living human being on the planet.

Consider that a December 2020 report by Scientific American (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/viruses-can-help-us-as-well-as-harm-us/) explained:

“Biologists estimate that 380 trillion viruses are living on and inside your body right now—10 times the number of bacteria. Some can cause illness, but many simply coexist with you.”

That is not a typo. Trillions. To expect a society free of viral and bacterial infections – to regard the passing of viruses or bacteria from person to person as though it is a taking of someone’s life, liberty, or property without their consent – is to take the position that every human being is – and has always been – violating the life, liberty, and property of the human beings with which he or she interacts. There is only one word for that position: nuts.

To be human is to be infected. To be human is to spread infections. To be human is to have an immune system that automatically deals with those trillions of infections so that you do not get sick – or, at least, do not remain sick for long – despite being an entity that is utterly infested with viruses and bacteria. Infection with the SARS-Cov-2 virus simply adds one more virus to the wealth of viruses wafting around in the air we breath, and hanging out on the doorknobs we use.

In response, the pro-segregation/pro-discrimination/anti-human folks might argue that the SARS-Cov-2 virus is very very different from the trillions of other viruses. In particular, they might argue that it spreads more effectively than other viruses, or that some people react more strongly to it than to other viruses. The proper response to such an assertion is: “So?“.

Freedom requires that one reject the notion of “original sin”; that one reject the notion that you are guilty because you are human; i.e., because you are one of the countless animals on this planet that, quite normally – if not also necessarily – are riddled with viruses and bacteria. The notion that a normal human body’s mere existence is an assault is an assault on ethics and on humanity.

In a free society, each individual uses his her or own rational faculty to make the decisions necessary for his or her own survival. Accordingly:

  • There are those who are religiously opposed to eating certain foods, such as eating anything that comes from an animal with a cloven hoof. That religious conviction does not imply that you are taking a person’s life, liberty, or property without someone’s consent when you order bacon and eggs. It is not the government’s role to make laws that ban pork. Those with religious convictions not to eat certain foods have a moral responsibility to avoid contact with such foods to whatever extent required by their religion.
  • There are those who cannot swim. That inability does not imply that you are taking a non-swimmer’s life, liberty, or property without his consent when you construct a swimming pool, or when you do not make it impossible to enter a lake. It is not a government’s role to make laws against the opening of swimming pools or beaches. Non-swimmers have a personal responsibility to use their rational faculty to make the decisions needed for their survival. Those who cannot swim have a moral responsibility – if they do not want to drown – either learn to swim, or to stay out of whatever water in which they might otherwise drown.
  • There are those who, due to blindness, cannot by themselves safely cross a busy street. Their blindness does not imply that, if you are driving a car, you are attempting to take a blind person’s life, liberty, or property without his consent. It is not a government’s role to ban the driving of automobiles. Those who are blind have a personal, moral responsibility – if they do not want to be injured or killed – of doing what they must to safely cross roads, whether that be by use of seeing-eye dogs, or what have you.
  • Likewise, there are those who are immunocompromised and who react more severely to viruses or bacteria. That does not imply that, if you are dancing, singing, playing a trumpet, lifting weights, laughing, or simply chatting with someone in a restaurant, you are attempting to take the immunocompromised person’s life, liberty, or property without her consent. It is not a government’s role to fine or imprison you for simply breathing as you always have, where and when you always have; for deciding to take a Covid-19 injection; or for deciding against taking one. Those with a poorly-working immune system have a personal, moral responsibility to take personal measures to avoid or deal with infections. Moreover, those whose lifestyle choices – e.g., over-eating, under-eating, not exercising, taking health-harming drugs, or engaging in behaviours that increase the likelihood of immunodeficiency – have a personal, moral obligation to make the lifestyle changes necessary to avoid undermining or damaging their immune systems. If, for example, a person – through gluttony and sloth – becomes morbidly obese and/or diabetic, that gluttony and sloth is not a claim on the life, liberty, or property of the healthy. The capacity to reason implies that one is personally responsible for making the poor decisions that threaten one’s survival or happiness.

The non-injected are not dehumanizing anyone. They are not violating anyone’s life, liberty, or property. They are simply living as normal human beings. Those who call for mandatory vaccination of everyone, or who call for (or practice) discrimination on the basis of injection status are dehumanizing both the injected and the non-injected.

The Government Must Ban Injection/Non-injection Discrimination

There is no excuse, at this point, for the Doug Ford government – or any other government – to sit idly by as people take it upon themselves to dehumanize one another on the basis of injection status. Now is the time for the Ford government in Ontario – and governments in other jurisdictions of the world – to pass legislation making it clear that no business, landlord, employer, sports venue etc. may treat the injected differently than the non-injected; de-humanizing discrimination or segregation must be condemned in the strongest rational, moral, and legal terms. With so many unwise, malicious, or politically-collectivist (i.e., communist, socialist, fascist, etc.) people seeking to dehumanize individuals, and to treat everyone instead like sorted cattle, the government must act swiftly and decisively to stand on the side of reason; on the side of individual responsibility; on the side of the uniquely human mode of life; on the side of a free society.

{Paul McKeever is the leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario. A lawyer, he has practised employment and human rights litigation since 1997.}