Mandatory vaccine policy creates shortage of volunteer firefighters; Justice Centre challenges policy

CELISTA, BRITISH COLUMBIA: The Justice Centre has sent a legal warning letter to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) demanding the CSRD accommodate volunteer firefighter Craig Nygard of Celista, British Columbia, in his request for a religious exemption from CSRD’s mandatory Covid vaccine policy. Mr. Nygard is seeking an exemption from the mandate based on his religious beliefs, research and weighing of vaccine’s benefits and risks, and the fact that he has naturally acquired immunity to Covid.

Approximately 30 volunteer firefighters in the CSRD have lost their positions due to their refusal to receive a Covid vaccine. As a result, CSRD now has a shortage of volunteer firefighters in the district. Charlene Le Beau, the Justice Centre lawyer representing Mr. Nygard, notes that communities rely on volunteer firefighters to keep their communities safe, and that a shortage of firefighters puts communities at risk. She states that “CSRD is doing a disservice to the community by denying volunteer firefighters and losing their volunteer services.”

Mr. Nygard has conducted extensive research on the Covid vaccines and their associated risks, including severe allergic reactions and death. Health Canada has issued warnings on the vaccine labels for the conditions of myocarditis, pericarditis, blood clots, and Bell’s Palsy. To accept this medical procedure would violate his conscience and religious convictions.

While he considers the work he does as a firefighter an essential service to the community, he is not willing to compromise his commitment to his faith.

He says that being a firefighter is very important to him personally, and fulfills his need to be of service to others and give back to the community.

“It is clear now that the Covid vaccines do not prevent transmission or infection of virus, and evolving science is demonstrating that natural immunity provides robust protection against reinfection of Covid,” states Ms. Le Beau.

The BC Covid Therapeutics Committee, which provides guidance to the BC Centre for Disease Control on the use of therapies in the management of Covid, stated in its February 1, 2022 Clinical Practice Guide for the Use of Therapeutics in Mild-Moderate Covid-19 update, at page 4, that “[p]revious infection alone is equivalent to 2-dose vaccination without a booster.” The BC Centre for Disease Control posts these updates on their website, although new updates replace previous updates.

Mr. Nygard caught Covid during the summer of 2021 when he was away fighting forest fires as part of the CSRD team and now has natural immunity to Covid.

“We are hopeful that the CSRD will reconsider its policy that requires all volunteer firefighters to take a new vaccination with a concerning side effect profile, to be permitted to work, or that they will comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the BC Human Rights Code, and honour Mr. Nygard’s request for religious exemption,” states Ms. Le Beau.