Submitted By Arnold Malone
Pioneer Columnist

There is a sizable chunk of North America’s population who advocate that wearing face masks during a pandemic is an infringement on their rights. They are absolutely correct and a whole lot wrong.

Of course, wearing a mask is an infringement on individual rights just the same as with every other law. It is also an infringement to require people to drive on the right side of the road. It is an infringement to need to pay taxes and it infringes upon us when we need to pay debts when due. It is an infringement upon farmers to control noxious weeds on their property.

Every law infringes upon an individual. The rationale is that we should serve a greater good. If you don’t believe that imagine what will happen when you choose to butcher your neighbours’ cow.

Law in a democratic society is an instrument of balancing individual rights with the need to serve the betterment of a society. This balancing is tricky, so thoughtful consideration is required.

The problem with mask wearing and the pandemic is that there is a flood of misinformation on social media. We live in an age when too many doubts sciences and far too many dreams for some self-empowerment by standing against authority.

Some claim it is their constitutional rights not to be infringed upon and believe that there are sets of absolute freedoms. That argument is false. The assumption is that somewhere there is a society with a set of pure rights which cannot be modified.

Every freedom under our Charter of Rights has corresponding sets of responsibilities; usually understood if not defined. It can’t be otherwise. Of course, we have the Freedom of Speech but that does not allow a person to enter a theater and shout “FIRE” just to watch the people run.

We have the freedom of Mobility but that does not mean that you can take a short-cut through your neighbour’s house. Nor can you drive on the highway at any speed without regard. We have the Freedom of Assembly but that does not mean that you can put a boardroom table in the middle of the freeway and hold a meeting. Rights are awarded in conjunction with responsibilities. Rights and responsibilities are a team that go in tandem and they must be considered together.

A person’s freedom of worship does not give someone license to enter the hair salon and preach a sermon to a confined client who is having their hair styled. Rights have limits.

It is the failure to accept responsibility that condemns the actions of those who refuse to wear a mask during a pandemic. The overwhelming majority of those who protest mask wearing are not medical personnel.

Yet they elevate themselves beyond science, medical research and elected lawmakers. They choose to live outside of society and march to their own drum beat. What is absent is their consideration of the life and health of others. Everything is about themselves.

Anti-mask persons are self centered people who care not a twit about the welfare of others.

Democratic law does not accommodate such self-centred behaviour. Societies have to have rules that protect the well-being of the whole nation. When an individual assumes that they are the law, they need to understand the corrosion to democracy if every person did the same thing. The result would be chaos. In fact, the very definition of a society is a group of people who have agreed to live by common rules. What anti-maskers advocate is anarchy; every person for themselves. For them, rules via an agreed system are merely options for consideration. If all persons behaved only in their own self-interest the result would be nation-wide havoc.

Arnold Malone served as MP for Alberta’s Battle River and Crowfoot ridings from 1974 through 1993. He retired to Invermere in 2007.