As the Omicron-driven surge in coronavirus infections strains their nation\u0026#039;s healthcare resources, Canadian progressives are balancing urgent public health concerns with respect for civil liberties after the province of Québec said Tuesday that it would begin levying fines on residents who refuse Covid-19 vaccinations.\r\n\r\n\u0022I think the government has still not exhausted other alternatives that are more equitable and more fair.\u0022\r\n\r\nCBC reports Québec Premier François Legault announced that \u0022adults who refuse to be vaccinated for non-medical reasons\u0022 will be hit with a \u0022health contribution\u0022 of an indeterminate but significant amount—believed to be more than $50-$100—after the policy is set \u0022in the coming weeks.\u0022\u0026nbsp; \r\n\r\n\u0022These people, they put a very important burden on our health-care network,\u0022 Legault said of the unvaccinated. \u0022I think it\u0026#039;s reasonable a majority of the population is asking that there be consequences.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe Canadian Medical Association responded to Legault\u0026#039;s announcement by tweeting \u0022the measures announced today in Québec demonstrate how precarious the situation is. Get the vaccine. It is still the best tool we have in our arsenal.\u0022\r\n\r\nAround 90% of Québecers have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccination.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThere is, however, pushback against the punitive policy among civil libertarians in terms of the way such a penalty could impact divergent segments of those choosing to remain unvaccinated.\r\n\r\nUniversité de Montréal bioethics professor Vardit Ravitsky noted that a flat penalty—a regressive tax, in other words—\u0022that targets all these groups the same... has a harder time respecting the principle of equity and justice compared to other measures the government could choose.\u0022 \r\n\r\nUnlike other parts of the world, like the 27-nation European Union, \u0022we still have not implemented vaccine passports for all non-essential services,\u0022 she told CBC.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nRavitsky addressed the equity issue during a Tuesday interview on CBC\u0026#039;s \u0022Politics \u0026amp; Power\u0022 program.\r\n\r\nShe said that \u0022$100, $500, may not be a terrible price to pay for you or I, but for some families, it\u0026#039;s a huge amount of money.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022It\u0026#039;s not that I have issues with increasing the pressure on those who are not vaccinated by choice to go get the vaccine,\u0022 Ravitsky clarified. \u0022 But I think the government has still not exhausted other alternatives that are more equitable and more fair.\u0022\r\n\r\nCara Zwibel, director of the fundamental freedoms program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association—which opposes the tax—says the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects individual bodily and medical autonomy.\r\n\r\n\u0022Allowing the government to levy fines on those who do not agree with the government\u0026#039;s recommended medical treatment is a deeply troubling proposition,\u0022 she told CBC, calling the tax \u0022divisive\u0026nbsp;and constitutionally vulnerable.\u0022 \r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe new policy comes as coronavirus infections have thinned the ranks of Québec\u0026#039;s public health personnel, with CBC reporting some hospitals have canceled up to 80% of non-urgent and semi-urgent surgeries so that staff can care for Covid-19 patients.\r\n\r\nJulius Grey, a Montréal-based constitutional and human rights attorney, told Global News that the proposed penalty could be contested in court.\r\n\r\n\u0022Discriminatory taxes can be challenged but I\u0026#039;m not sure that’s what this is,\u0022 he said. \u0022What Premier François Legault is trying to do is make vaccination obligatory.\u0022\r\n\r\nOn one hand, the government could argue that the benefits of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic—which is threatening to overwhelm the healthcare system—outweigh concerns over the erosion of individual liberty.\r\n\r\n\u0022On the other hand,\u0022 said Grey, \u0022people would say this is very serious violation of the Charter. It touches your personal integrity, physical integrity, by doing things to people they are not willing to have done.\u0022\r\n\r\nSome European nations levy fines on people who refuse to submit to Covid-19 vaccination.\r\n\r\nAustria currently imposes the most severe penalties—up to €3,600, or about $4,115—for unvaccinated people over age 14.\r\n\r\nGreece has enacted a €100 ($115) monthly fine for unvaccinated people older than 60.\r\n\r\nIn Italy, people age 50 and older face fines as high as €1,600 ($1,830) if they enter their workplace while unvaccinated.\r\n\r\nThese measures come as the highly contagious Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is driving an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases in many nations.\r\n\r\nAccording to Johns Hopkins University\u0026#039;s Coronavirus Resource Center, there were more than 17.1 million new reported infections worldwide on January 9, a nearly 300% increase from about a month ago. Over that same period, daily reported deaths around the world have declined by about 20%.