This whole vaccine debate has been slowly degrading my mental health over the last 2 years and I’ve been sweeping it under the rug because of the inconsistencies that have been wreaking havoc on my brain.

Full disclaimer because I would need one if I was reading this: I’m going to talk about vaccination issues. This shit is tense and hard and divisive and exhausting. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by all this, please skip this post, got make some tea or coffee and snuggle a child or pet close by. Take care of yourself first.

If you’re coming along for this ride, please know that I mean absolutely no offense to anyone nor is my writing meant to be prescriptive in any way. This is a processing tool for me.

Okay, so let’s talk about this convoy in Ottawa for a sec. It’s dragging me down hard and I am slowly piecing together why. I’ve been an absolute stress case for the last week and really struggling to bounce back. After some big chats with my partner this morning, I think I’m starting to understand why I’m having such a hard time processing the anti-vax/anti-mandate movement.

Statement 1: I am anti-state. That means anti-government and anti-authority. It follows that I am also anti-mandate for vaccinations. I don’t think that any government should have the authority to force decisions on anyone.

Statement 2: I am pro-vaccination. I think it’s important to protect ourselves and those in our community against diseases. I believe that the risks associated with being vaccinated are far outweighed by the risk of communicable diseases. Vaccinations are proven to work in this regard.

These two statement appear to be in conflict but I feel that both of these things are true.

There’s a lot of talk about rights and freedoms during this protest and it makes my skin crawl because rights and freedoms are concepts that are created and enforced by government bodies: by the state. Rights and freedoms don’t exist outside the state. What does exist are needs, individual needs and collective needs. The need for food and shelter, the need for safety, the need for healthcare, etc. So what we have instead of rights or freedoms as members of a community are responsibilities to meet our own needs, each others needs, and our collective needs. These responsibilities don’t need to be written down or even agreed upon. They can shift through time and space, unique to each collective or individual. They are not firm.

When I see the vaccination issues through this lens, the idea of government mandates are ridiculous. We shouldn’t need them because people should see the well-being of the community as a collective responsibility. If members of my community are at risk, then I have a responsibility to do what I can to help. I don’t really care if it’s getting vaccinated or isolating or wearing a mask. Tbh, I’m probably going to listen to other people (like doctors, not the state) that know more than me about diseases to make that decision for me.

This view of caring for the collective is something that I’ve come across before in learning about decolonial cultures. Colonialism pits us against each other, emphasizing the individual, and leads to concepts like neo-liberal individualism. But the reality is that we are all part of a community where if one person suffers, the collective suffers. It is in the best interest of every member of the group to prioritize the well-being of the group so that everyone can grow and flourish together. We are really just small parts of one big whole.

And then, of course, this extends beyond other humans to the rest of the non-human members of our collective. We need to care for other species and the environment so that we can live together in a reciprocal relationship. If one species sees itself as a priority over the other species, the whole system suffers.

And so humans have, and so suffer we shall.

In my my village, we don’t have rights. We don’t have rights over anything. Because that’s rude to say that. You know, that’s that’s very impolite to say you have a right over something. Especially land or trees or actually anything.

We have responsibilities. That is what we have.

So when you have a responsibility agenda it’s different than having a rights based agenda.

Authority is often based on the rights that they assume they have, and the hierarchy is all about the rights that that they have. But if we’re to turn those into responsibilities, you’d quickly find everybody come to equal terms. And it’s not about rights.

The thing is when you have two people that assume those same set of rights you fight. But if you have two people that assume the same responsibilities, they end up working together.

It’s such a big difference in life. Having a responsibility agenda is how we live as Anishinaabeg. It’s the right way for us to live.

Bomgiizhik (

I recognize that I just went from ground level to the 50,000 ft view, but I really believe that it’s the same principles at play. If we prioritize ourselves over others, everyone suffers. If we can act in ways that support each other, everyone flourishes. Fuck the government and whatever they have to say about it. They never act in anyone’s best interest other than perpetuating the systems in place. But if you remove mandates that force this collective care and simply replace them with self-prioritization, the entire community suffers. Like failing healthcare systems, like over exhausted healthcare workers, like front-line workers needlessly putting themselves at risk on the daily. Like elective surgeries that have been put on hold (many of which are not at all elective). Like the ongoing mental health crisis.

I obviously don’t have any solutions to any of these problems: they are much bigger than one person. But I do suspect that if more folks were concerned with the well-being of the whole rather than the rights and freedoms of the individual and if we thought more about meeting the needs of others rather than getting ahead of each other, we would be in a better place than where we are right now.