"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

If Canada really cares for human rights, then it must give us a choice to say no to AstraZeneca Featured


Gurpreet Singh   

As we are all anxiously waiting for our turn to get a vaccine to prevent COVID 19, one of the many challenges before the people would be to which shot they prefer to be injected into their bodies.   

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has already said that residents of his province will have a choice not to get AstraZeneca, but many of our political leaders have remained silent on this issue.  

The majority of those opposed to AstraZeneca in Alberta have concerns about it being prepared with material from fetal cells - although this is not factual. Since anti-abortion voices are stronger in that region, Kenney has spelt out clearly that such choice will be given to the people based on their ethical values.  

However, not much is being discussed in the media about the anxiety among the Canadians of Indian origin whose ethical concerns are much bigger than those of anti-abortionists and science deniers.  

By now, we are all familiar with the fact that close to 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca are destined to arrive here from India. After all, our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to provide them to deal with the shortage of vaccine in Canada.  

This is despite the fact that Modi is a tyrant, under whose watch attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown ever since he became the Prime Minister in 2014.  

Modi belongs to the Hindu supremacist group RSS, which aspires to turn India into a Hindu theocracy. As part of his right wing pro corporate agenda, he has already introduced controversial farming laws that threaten the livelihood of small farmers and those living in rural India. Since these laws were passed without much consultation and debate, the farmers continued to protest for the past several months. Even Trudeau had condemned the police barbarity on the agitating farmers, only to make a U turn later to ask for the vaccine, which has disappointed many of us.   

This reflects poorly on Canada for two reasons. First, how can Canada claim to be a human rights leader in the world, but overlook the crimes of Modi and seek his help? This has given him undue legitimacy and emboldened his supporters in Canada, who are bent upon discrediting those showing their solidarity with the farmers of India.  

Second, Canada being a champion of the public health care system, should have rather produced its own vaccine rather than asking India for help.  

I have nothing against the scientists and the health experts who are behind AstraZeneca, and I don’t agree with anti-abortionists or science deniers, but I am deeply concerned with the fact that this whole vaccine deal has helped Modi in rehabilitating his image in the eyes of Canadians.  

We therefore should have a choice to refuse to accept AstraZeneca and instead get any other vaccine, to send a strong message to both Trudeau and Modi that human rights are not something that can take a back seat for the sake of your relations.  



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Gurpreet Singh

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi


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