TORONTO: The Justice Centre announces that lawyers will be in court on behalf of Seneca College students today, arguing their right to equal treatment free of discrimination due to their Covid vaccine status. The Justice Centre has advanced legal arguments to ensure that Seneca students will be allowed to return to their studies this fall on an interim basis pending the full court hearing.
Seneca was among the first post-secondary institutions in Ontario to enforce a Covid vaccine mandate. It remains one of the few to maintain the requirement, despite governments and other institutions dropping it in early 2022, in the wake of the Omicron variant and clear evidence that the Covid shots do not prevent transmission of the virus.
On August 30, 2021, Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Health Officer (CMHO) of Ontario, provided all post-secondary education institutions in the province with instructions requiring that students be offered three choices as part of their Covid vaccine plans, any of which would facilitate their access to campus:
- Show proof of double vaccination;
- Show medical exemption which the institution must approve; or
- Attend a Covid-19 vaccine education session on the safety and benefits of the vaccine.
Students who chose the final option were required to frequently test for Covid, and organizations declining to offer the final option were to require one of the first two.
Seneca chose not to offer testing options to its students. These students do not have the option to complete their studies online and some have been forced to take alternative employment that pays less than their projected career earnings.
Two of the Applicants, Ms. Costa and Ms. Love, were in the final year of their respective programs and had expected to begin their new careers in April 2022. Both students are single mothers who enrolled at Seneca to provide a better life for their children.
Despite ample evidence, the now widely recognized fact that vaccines do not stop transmission, and the termination of the CMHO’s instructions, Seneca has refused to rescind its Covid vaccine mandate for the Fall 2022 session.
It is well known that the risks associated with Covid increase exponentially with age. Both students involved in the injunction are under 40 years old and have a low chance of serious illness or death. The Center for Disease Control recently updated its guidance to inform the public that Covid transmission risk is the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
During the injunction counsel will present arguments to the Court that Seneca College is jeopardizing the careers of the named students and that prolonged absence from their studies will cause irreparable harm, compounded by the stress of financial insecurity as they struggle to provide for their families.
“Students are being coerced to choose between bodily integrity or receiving an education to make a living for themselves,” states Justice Centre lawyer Andre Memauri, adding, “Seneca College’s vaccination mandate is rogue, out-dated, discriminatory and a punishing policy which needs to come to an end to allow our students to return back to school.”
“The damage this policy has caused in the lives of these single mothers trying to finish their schooling to provide for their children is deeply troubling,” concludes Mr. Memauri.