Justice Centre warns federal government it is illegally denying EI benefits based on vaccine status

OTTAWA: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has warned the federal minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability, Carla Qualtrough, that the government is acting illegally and violating Charter rights by denying EI benefits to Canadians fired from their jobs for refusing a Covid shot.

On October 21, 2021, Ms. Qualtrough gave a media interview stating that in her view, Canadians fired or suspended from their employment for refusing the Covid injections should not be able to receive Employment Insurance.

Service Canada, which administers EI, and the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (the “Commission”) are insisting that unvaccinated employees have been suspended as a result of their own “misconduct”. As a result, Canadians who have paid into employment insurance benefits, sometimes for their whole lifetime, are being denied those benefits.

From the perspective of terminated employees, with the rollout of the Covid vaccines in 2021, numerous employers, including the Government of Canada, attempted to dictate the personal medical choices of their employees by requiring them to take these recently developed shots. Employees who did not comply with these demands were placed on involuntary leave without pay or fired. These are employees who in many cases served on the front lines of Canada’s service, industry and health care sectors.

Few employer vaccine mandates recognize the natural immunity possessed by employees who have already recovered from Covid-19. More significantly, these vaccine mandates have been imposed despite the fact that it has now been demonstrated that Covid vaccines do not prevent individuals from contracting or transmitting Covid. For example, a 2021 study concluded that “clinicians and public health practitioners should consider vaccinated persons who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 to be no less infectious than unvaccinated persons.”

Many Canadians have declined to receive Covid shots based on their personal medical conditions, conscientious objections or religious beliefs, or because the long-term effects of the Covid-vaccines are unknown and the vaccines are still under trials.

The Justice Centre’s letter to Ms. Qualtrough, Service Canada, and the Commission, has warned the government it is acting beyond its’ jurisdiction in creating an arbitrary policy, which does not follow existing case law from court and tribunal decisions ruling on “misconduct”.

“The policy is also in violation of the purpose of the Employment Insurance Act and Canadians’ Charter rights. The government is twisting the meaning of “misconduct” to deny Canadians unemployment benefits if they choose not to take the Covid shots,” states Cynthia Murphy, lawyer with the Justice Centre.

In many cases, employees with medical or religious objections to receiving a Covid vaccine, were not accommodated by their employer and are now being denied EI benefits, in violation of their Charter rights to be free from discrimination and their freedom of conscience and religion.

“In a free country, citizens get to decide which medical treatment they receive. There is no legitimate excuse for Canadians to be labelled as engaging in “misconduct” for refusing the Covid vaccine and to be denied employment insurance in order to fulfill a political purpose that is in direct violation with the law,” concludes Ms. Murphy.