Municipal Councillor punished for expression about mandatory vaccination

Guerard v. Mississippi Mill et al.

Municipal Councillor punished for expression about mandatory vaccination

Guerard v. Mississippi Mill et al.

On September 26, 2022, lawyers provided by the Justice Centre filed a legal action against Mississippi Mill et al. on behalf of municipal councillor Cynthia Guerard, who lives in the Municipality of Mississippi Mills, Ontario. After Ms. Guerard refused to disclose her vaccination status, a complaint was lodged against her for allegedly attending council meetings without disclosing her vaccination status (a violation of the town’s Code of Conduct) and for allegedly failing to show sufficient remorse. The matter was investigated by the municipality’s Integrity Commissioner. The municipal council accepted the Integrity Commissioner’s findings and suspended Ms. Guerard’s pay for 90 days – the most severe punishment under the Municipal Act. 

While the municipality had introduced a vaccine mandate for employees, it was unclear whether the mandate applied to municipal councillors.

Ms. Guerard said, “I firmly believe in every Canadian’s right to keep their private medical information confidential, a fundamental right that, in Ontario, is protected by statute. I look forward to making my case that the investigation and decision were biased and contrary to my fundamental Charter freedoms.”

This lawsuit seeks to reverse the decision to punish Ms. Guerard on the grounds that the process leading to the decision was unfair and that important factual errors were made in the investigative report prepared by the Integrity Commissioner. Later, the Notice of Application was amended to focus on the violation to Ms. Guerard’s Charter section 2(b) right to freedom of expression. Specifically, lawyers will argue that forcing Canadians to disclose their vaccination status is a violation of their freedom not to speak. 

“We are particularly concerned that the Integrity Commissioner and Council may have been biased against Ms. Guerard,” says Keith Pridgen, legal counsel to Ms. Guerard. “She was not interviewed during the investigation and was punished for attending a meeting that had not yet happened. Also, she was given the harshest punishment available, something normally reserved for the most egregious violations of the Code of Conduct, such as for sexual harassment or other flagrant misconduct.”

Justice Centre lawyers will bring this case to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Divisional Court) at a date to be determined.

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