Guest column: Those upset about freedom these days obviously never lived in real police state

Author of the article:

Lloyd Brown-John

Publishing date:

Dec 18, 2021  •  19 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  17 Comments

Currie Soulliere speaks during a
Currie Soulliere speaks during a “freedom rally” on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Dieppe Park in downtown Windsor. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Every now and then one or more of the anti-vaxers, anti-vaccine passport or anti-maskers finds deep within the recesses of their minds the phrase “police state.”


Their braying resonates among kindred supporters at protests ostensibly supporting freedom or their interpretation of it as COVID-19 and Omicron grind on.

We’ve witnessed excesses from allegations we inhabit a police state during the most recent election.

I feel, however, very few of those who have declared COVID-19 rules as government actions akin to a police state have ever actually lived or spent any time in a real police state.

Even some countries which ostensibly parade as democracies impose many trappings of police states.

I recall our jitney driver seeking to return us to our accommodation in his country’s South Asian capital city was faced with needing to enter a street blocked by a machine gun laden police officer. He had his face slapped by that officer for simply trying to follow our directions.


At a regional airport in that same country, I took a rifle blow across my lower back from a uniformed officer as we filed through armed security to board an aircraft.

In my mind, those minor examples always have epitomized actual police-state behaviour.

And those experiences were in one of the world’s ostensible democracies.

Therefore, it is my belief those who consider COVID-19 restrictions as surreptitious police state-ism really don’t have a clue what they are actually talking about.

I’ve experienced visiting several police states. I recall rushing home from a dinner cafe in a darkened car in Santiago, Chile to beat nightly curfews under Pinochet’s dictatorship. I was always conscious how many people arrested in that brutal police state simply vanished.


And then there was East Germany where we were escorted by two tuckloads of armed soldiers after we went to visit a village. Or Roumania under Communist rule where I discovered that freedom of speech transpired within discrete conversations only involving those elderly enough to have studied French in school.

And my Czech international law colleague who was accompanied by a “translator” when we met together in then Communist Prague to discuss some extradition legal questions.

After meeting and the translator’s departure, my Czech colleague, who allegedly spoke no English, turned to me and said: “let’s go for a walk in Wenceslas Square.”

Or in Damascus, Syria’s great bazaar where a nervous vendor quietly asked me not to ask him questions as “there are informers everywhere.”


So, no, we do not live in anything remotely resembling a police state. Talk to those who have arrived in Canada as refugees from real police states if you require any further testimony.

The irony emerging from those who insist we are on the verge of Canada or Ontario’s dark secretive push toward making us live in a controlled police state is how these people also insist their freedom is being impaired.

But in my mind freedom also denotes responsibility.

My freedom I feel is being severely constrained by people refusing vaccinations. As long as those who are vaccine-resistant roam our communities, there will remain constant threats of COVID-19 and its emerging variants.

That ongoing threat imposes restraints on my freedom to enjoy my limited remaining years.


Essentially, all of us have now lost almost two years of freedom and I’m at an age where two years could equal a final life span. That loss of freedom we as the majority are experiencing stems in part from the distorted view of what constitutes freedom in our democracy.

In times of war, governments in Canada have restrained our freedoms — even in many cases where that constraint has resulted in death.

Conscription (the draft) in two wars cost many young Canadians their total freedom as many died fighting to preserve the macro-freedom inherent in simply being Canadian.

Governments can expropriate property with fair compensation. And governments can control information and movements in what they believe to be greater public interest, especially during war.

In my view, we are at war again. This time with a vicious and frequently deadly virus. Why do some continue to refuse to understand that war conditions demand sacrifices?

If this global conflict with a deadly virus is to be conquered it will be done because we have some freedom curtailment in order to provide medical warriors with means to combat the disease and save lives.

It is a deadly war, after all.

Lloyd Brown-John is a University of Windsor professor emeritus of political science. He can be reached at

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