The Justice Centre’s position is that the government should make the Covid vaccine available to Canadians who want it, starting with those who are the most vulnerable. That should be the end of their involvement in the personal health decisions of Canadians. To go further and threaten or mandate liberty restrictions on Canadians who decide not to receive such a vaccine is a violation of the rights to freedom of conscience and religion, mobility rights, and the right to liberty, and security of the person under the Charter.
What is the different between forced vaccination and mandatory vaccination?
“Forced vaccination” means forcibly injecting citizens with a vaccine against their will. “Mandatory vaccination” means a legal requirement to be vaccinated, and to provide proof of vaccination. Failure to comply with the mandate could result in consequences, such as being prevented from attending events, holding certain employment, or receiving certain government benefits. Some provinces already require vaccines for children to attend public schools; however, there have always been exemptions available on medical, religious, or conscience grounds.
Can I be forced to get a vaccine?
Some provinces already have the power to make vaccines mandatory, or even forced. In Alberta, for example, legislation presently exists in the Alberta Public Health Act, section 38(1)(c), which authorizes the government to order anyone who is not immunized against an epidemic disease, or who can’t prove immunity to the disease, to be vaccinated. Anyone who refuses will be treated as though they are infected with the disease, and can then be subject to other measures, including being apprehended under a warrant and forced to accept “treatment” to make them non-infectious.
Alberta Health has confirmed its view that section 38(1)(c) does provide government with the power to order immunization or re-immunization for Albertans. The Alberta Government has indicated that it will remove this section from the Act, and the Justice Centre is carefully monitoring the Government’s actions to ensure that it does.
As of April 12, 2021, the Alberta government has introduced Bill 66 which, if passed, would repeal the power to mandate or force citizens to be vaccinated.
In some other provinces, governments are saying that the vaccine will not necessarily be forced, but there will be consequences for not taking it. Any proposal by government to coerce people to take vaccines against their will, through the threat of losing access to essential services, is concerning and should be challenged.
Is there a legal basis to refuse vaccination?
Canadians have the right to give their voluntary, informed consent to any medical treatment.
Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, guaranteed rights to liberty and security of the person cannot be denied except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. This gives us autonomy over choices that impact on our own physical or psychological integrity. When a requirement is overbroad, and interferes with liberty and security of the person in ways that bear no connection to its objective, then it can be said to be contrary to principles of fundamental justice.
Mandatory vaccines for everyone, regardless of their personal risk factors, age, prior infections, etc., are likely unconstitutional on that measure.
Is the Justice Centre anti-vaccination?
The Justice Centre is not pro- or anti-vaccination. We support letting people make decisions about their own health, and we are dedicated to the protection of constitutional rights in a free society. In a free country, individuals have the right to decide what is best for their own health. That includes being free to obtain and consider a wide range of information about all potential medical treatments and their benefits and risks, and having the right to make their own decisions accordingly— including saying no to a vaccine.
The Justice Centre is also opposed to governments imposing penalties on, or denying benefits to, those who refuse or are unable to receive a vaccination. This may be done through the direct implementation of a “vaccine passport”, or the requirement that any Canadian produce proof of a Covid vaccine to access government services, including health care and education.
What if my employer fires me if I will not get the COVID vaccine?
Legally, unless governments pass specific legislation requiring it, vaccination is a choice. At a minimum, religious and medical exemptions must be honoured in accordance with various human rights codes across the country, and you may wish to file an application to your provincial human rights tribunal if you are discriminated against on protected grounds. However, some employers may demand their employees to be vaccinated, and may even terminate those who refuse without religious or medical grounds. Where there is no basis to claim an exemption, that termination may be upheld. You may wish to consider suing your employer for wrongful dismissal, and will need to contact an employment lawyer to discuss the merits of your case. If your employer is a government entity, you may be able to raise Charter arguments as well, and can contact us if you face termination or other penalties in relation to a mandatory vaccination program with a government employer.
The Justice Centre supports and will defend the constitutional rights of individuals to refuse to be vaccinated. The decision to be vaccinated is a personal one and must remain so. Any cases we take will be subject to our discretion as to their appropriateness factually, legally, and strategically.
Would a vaccine “immunity passport” violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
In the latest escalation of rights infringements, governments in Canada are now actively discussing vaccine passports, which would effectively mandate vaccination for Covid.
A government threatening or mandating liberty restrictions against Canadians who do not want a Covid vaccine would, in our view, be a violation of the section 7 right to life, liberty and security of the person, and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Once established, the government would then have to prove that this serious rights infringement is demonstrably justified on a preponderance of evidence.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in a foundational case, established that in Canada freedom means the absence of coercion or constraint. If Canadian governments move to force or otherwise mandate vaccines, they need to be effectively and immediately challenged in court.