Citizens argue the passport scheme violated Charter rights and freedoms
TORONTO, ON: The Justice Centre supports Sarah Harjee, Evan Kraayenbrink, and six other Canadians as they bring their case against Ontario’s vaccine passport to the Court of Appeal for Ontario on Tuesday, October 24, 2023.
These eight citizens filed a constitutional challenge against the vaccine passport mandate in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice on October 18, 2021. After two days of hearings in November 2022, the court upheld the mandates in a ruling released December 13, 2022. The trial judge concluded that the vaccine passport system did not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The provincial government’s vaccine passport came into effect on September 21, 2021. Those who did not get injected were not allowed into restaurants, gyms, and other venues. Businesses were obligated to enforce the system or face fines up to $100,000, while owners could be sentenced up to a year in jail. The passports were not rescinded until March 2022, as more and more evidence continued to emerge showing that both those receiving the new Covid vaccine and those not receiving it were transmitting Covid equally.
Like millions of other Canadians, Ms. Harjee and the other applicants in the court action did not take the vaccine for various personal reasons, including conscience, health, and religious reasons. Despite the Charter protecting the right to bodily autonomy, millions of Canadians were excluded from the rest of society, allowed only to access to food and medication.
Among the Appellants are:
- Evan Kraayenbrink, a paramedic who was on the healthcare frontlines since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Because of sincere religious beliefs, he avoided the vaccine. But the government did not allow any religious exemptions. Consequently, he lost his job. (Hear Evan’s story in his own words here.)
- Sarah Lamb, who received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and lost sensation from her waist down. Public Health acknowledged she had suffered an adverse event but told her to get a second dose of the vaccine anyway. Adverse reaction was one of the few grounds for exemption allowed under the passport scheme. Yet she was denied the exemption.
- Linda McDonough, who suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Ms. McDonough did not take the vaccine after her doctor informed her that it could increase the pain caused by her condition. She could get no medical exemption and as a result was denied entry to swimming pools where she previously went for a water therapy treatment recommended by her doctor.
- Sarah Harjee, an expectant mother with degrees in nursing and public health. She had concerns about possible adverse side effects for herself and her unborn child. Because the vaccine was so new, no long-term safety studies were available to her.
In their appeal, the eight cite three broad grounds in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for the Court to consider: that Section 2(a)-religious freedoms, Section 7-security of person and liberty, and Section 15(1)-equality rights, were breached and that none of these breaches can be justified under Section 1. They ask that sections of the Reopening Ontario Act, which brought in the vaccine passport system, be declared unconstitutional.
Allison Pejovic, lawyer for the Appellants, says, “Denying Ontarians access to gyms, restaurants, and wellness facilities on the basis that they have not taken a novel medical treatment is unconstitutional. The regulation that created the provincial vaccine passport system created a two-tiered society, which the Appellants in this case ask the Court of Appeal for Ontario to reject as unlawful.”
The public can view the hearing on Zoom. Please click the link below to join the webinar: