Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that Canada “had a better pandemic” than other western countries at a press conference on Feb. 17. He was addressing the media following the release of the Public Order Emergency Commission’s final report on his government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act in February 2022. Trudeau commented that Canada had “fewer deaths, with lower levels of economic disruption, with greater social cohesions than many other places.”
Convoy organizers had wanted to have a dialogue with Trudeau but were not given an audience during their time in Ottawa. Trudeau did not cite any source for his “better pandemic” claim. A webpage examining COVID-19 fatalities by country, provided by John Hopkins University of Medicine, listed Canada among “twenty countries currently most affected by COVID-19 worldwide.” Canada’s death rate is 134 per 100,000 population, higher than Norway, Australia, Cuba, Taiwan, South Korea, Iceland, Kuwait, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia, yet lower than the United States, the UK, Italy, Russia, France, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, and Israel. Canada’s observed case-fatality ratio—the number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases—is 1.1 percent, reflecting the country’s over 51,000 deaths that have resulted from more than 4,500,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Trudeau said choosing not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 doesn’t mean someone doesn’t believe in science, but he clarified that those who deliberately chose to amplify falsehoods and put their fellow citizens at risk are something that a government needs to stand firmly against. The efficacy of COVID vaccines remains a contested issue among medical professionals, with one side arguing that the shots protect against the virus and the other side warning of long-term side effects and citing cases of vaccine injuries such as myocarditis or even deaths. When asked if he has any regrets calling the Freedom Convoy protesters a “fringe minority,” Trudeau said he wished he had “phrased it differently.” Commissioner Paul Rouleau said in his Feb. 17 report that the Liberal government was justified in invoking the Emergencies Act but that Trudeau’s way of talking inflamed the protesters. Two Liberal MPs in February 2022 also publicly criticized their government for politicizing the pandemic and using the issue of vaccination to divide Canadians. Former Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau also said in January this year that Trudeau shouldn’t have used vaccine mandates as a political wedge while running for re-election in the 2021 federal election.