How would Quebec's tax on the unvaccinated affect vulnerable communities?

Quebec's idea of imposing an extra tax on those who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to generate a lot of discussion. People who work with marginalized communities are just some of those expressing concerns. Dan Spector reports.

Quebec’s idea of imposing an extra tax on those who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to generate a lot of discussion.

People who work with marginalized communities are just some of those expressing concerns.

Some believe there is more the government could have done to promote vaccination before talking about a tax.

“I wonder if there are other ways to bring those people around than, you know, fining them,” said Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

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Montreal’s Park Ex neigbourhood was one of the hardest hit in the early waves of the pandemic. Last year, longtime resident Stella Bailakis rolled up her sleeves to help.

“We were going door to door informing people of where they can get their vaccinations if they want to,” she recalled.

She says many people came around after being met on their doorstep, and wonders why the government has not started that type of strategy up again in areas with low vaccination rates.

“This time, there is absolutely nothing,” said Bailakis.

Bailakis also worries about the tax being imposed on people who don’t speak English or French.

“If their language skills are limited, how much of that are they going to understand?” she wonders.

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McGill infectious diseases expert Dr. Donald Vinh pointed to how the government at first tried to reward people for getting vaccinated, using a lottery, celebrities and more. He wonders if authorities will regret being more forceful.

“I know somebody a long time ago where he was frustrated and he punched a wall. And yeah, it was very satisfying for him to punch the wall, except when he broke his wrist,” he said.

Vinh worries the tax will only make the vaccine-hesitant more resistant.

“Is there another option here before we go to, you know, basically the punishment? One obvious step is to facilitate vaccines going to people rather than people going to vaccines,” he said.

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Francois Legault says the tax will be significant, and community workers hope it will be flexible based on income.

“For me, it’s the price. That’s what worries me,” said Samle Zouzoua, a coordinator with the Table de quartier de Parc-Extension. “It needs to be fair.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association wants more information before embarking on any kind of legal challenge, but wonders what the goal of the measure actually is.

On Twitter, Quebec’s health minister celebrated an increase in the amount of people making first dose appointments, but Zwibel doesn’t believe the tax would have an effect on hospitalizations.

“Even if this policy were to come into force today and everyone who was subject to it were to be vaccinated get their first inoculation today, they would not be fully vaccinated for another six months or so. As far as alleviating the immediate concern on hospitals, I don’t think this policy is really aimed at that,” she said.

Zwibel wonders if after evaluating all the issues and likely legal challenges, the government may backtrack on the idea.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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