Officer James Topp said he doesn’t believe people would notice if he didn’t wear his uniform to publicly protest against the Canadian military’s vaccine requirements.
That decision to speak out in uniform was ultimately at the heart of the military’s case against the reservist, who has become a symbol for Canadians opposed to vaccines, the vaccine mandate, and the outreach. government overreach.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Topp said he intentionally wore a military uniform to raise awareness about soldiers, sailors and airmen being forced out of the Canadian Armed Forces for refusing to get vaccinated. COVID-19.
“I want to make sure that there are people out there who are aware of what is really going on in the Armed Forces,” Topp said.
“That there are people released because they don’t follow this policy, because they think the policy is wrong.”
Topp was charged by his chain of command in February with two counts of violating good order and discipline, a broad charge under the National Defense Act designed to enforce discipline within the ranks.
A copy of the affidavit says one of the allegations specifically relates to a video posted to TikTok in which military reservists criticize vaccine requirements for military and related personnel. another state when wearing a uniform.
The second charge addresses similar criticism that Topp made in Surrey, BC, around the same time, also while in uniform. A professional video of those comments was later posted on social media.
Federal employees, including members of the military, must have what is described as a “loyalty duty” to the government, which includes not criticizing the government while defining themselves in the role. their current.
“They’re part of the executive branch, and they’re there to implement the policies and decisions of elected officials,” said defense analyst Jean-Christophe Boucher of the University of Calgary. owner”.
“They are not accountable to the public. And openly challenging and openly criticizing the government, externally but not internally, becomes a matter of trust, and also a matter of their position. in the political system.”
A website was created for Topp’s four-month march from Vancouver to Ottawa, culminating in his visit to the National War Memorial last week, describing his decision to “use the uniform as a tool to spread awareness” is a “big step”.
Topp himself admitted in his first video in February that he was not allowed to wear his uniform while speaking out against vaccine regulations and that he was fully responsible for his actions. as well as the consequences.
He still defended his decision on Wednesday, even as he prepared for the launch of what he said would be the second phase of his march, which would take him from Ottawa to Newfoundland to protest the military’s continued demand for vaccines.
“I am a member of the Canadian Armed Forces on release,” said Topp, whose march from Vancouver to Ottawa was supported by many of his “Liberty Convoy” companions earlier this year. .
“Why don’t I wear a uniform? If I think the government is wrong, it’s my duty to speak up about something. It’s my training. When I see something amiss, it’s my duty to speak out against it.”
When asked about servicemen speaking out in uniform while on missions abroad like Iraq or Mali, Topp said: “It’s a completely different situation. That’s what we signed up for. This is a completely different situation. questionable medical procedure”.
Health Canada says only vaccines that meet stringent safety, efficacy and quality standards will be approved for use in the country, and the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine continue to outweigh those of the pandemic. risk factors for this disease.
Defense Secretary General Wayne Eyre is currently reviewing the Canadian military’s COVID-19 vaccine regulation, which will remain in effect even if the same requirement for most other federal employees has been suspended. .
Eyre first ordered all troops to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in October, saying the request was aimed at protecting the Armed Forces and “showing leadership” as the government due to the passage of federal vaccine mandates.
While most serving members obey orders, with the Department of Defense reporting more than 98% of Canadian troops have been vaccinated, hundreds more have not and have been – or are in the process of being evicted. .
This Canadian Press report was first published on July 6, 2022.