ONTARIO: New vaccine mandates and passport rules are making it tough on the anti-vaccine movement

Medical regulators and Human Rights opinions indicate that employers and business owners can impose strict vaccination rules

As more organizations and public venues make announcements about vaccine mandates and the requirement for COVID-19 vaccine passports in Ontario, it raises the question of whether some individuals can claim exemptions and what criteria they will face.

This follows the declaration made by Ontario Premier Doug Ford this past Wednesday when he said that Ontario will require proof of vaccination in certain settings to take effect later this month.

Already, some Northern Ontario venues and organizations have indicated that the new vaccine passport will be a formal requirement.  This includes Cinéfest Sudbury and Laurentian University. Vaccine mandates have also been announced by Air Canada and Porter Airlines, both of which provide flights into and out of Northern Ontario. Other organizations are expected to declare their intentions and policies after the long weekend. Sports venues are expected to impose similar guidelines. 

To begin with, Ontario’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO), which regulates doctors, has issued guidance on what doctors can do when they’re requested to write out a medical exemption letter for patients who do not want the vaccine. 

Telling your doctor that you are not comfortable with the vaccine or you don’t trust the science does not wash as a medical exemption. Anxiety, discomfort and stubbornness do not qualify as reasons for a doctor’s note.

There are basically two reasons that qualify, according to the CPSO guidelines, which the college says is based on science provided by The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and the Ontario Ministry of Health. In both cases, CPSO said the cases are rare. 

“Generally speaking, there are very few acceptable medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccination,” said the CPSO statement. One exemption is a confirmed and documented severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or to any of its components that cannot be mitigated. The second is a documented and diagnosed episode of myocarditis/pericarditis after receipt of an mRNA vaccine.

Another exemption that anti-vaxxers might seek is the human rights exemption, where they claim they have their own beliefs that the COVID-19 vaccine is wrong for them and they object to subjecting themselves to the vaccine. That claim is not supported by human rights legislation. 

Currently, as it stands now,  the  Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has taken the position “that a singular belief or personal preference against vaccinations or masks does not appear to be protected on the ground of creed under the Code.”

Human Rights Ontario has added that there is no case law to support the anti-vaccine or anti-mask positions. 

“The OHRC is not aware of any tribunal or court decision that found a singular belief against vaccinations or masks amounted to a creed within the meaning of the Code.”

Under the new rules in Ontario, however, an individual cannot be forced to disclose their vaccination status. He or she can refuse as they see fit.

People who make the decision not to divulge that information, will not be permitted to access settings that require proof of vaccination, or they may be required to provide proof of negative COVID-19 testing on an ongoing basis, said the Ontario announcement.

There are also legal opinions that say employers and fellow employees have the right to claim the need for personal safety in the workplace. Those opinions have indicated that health and safety laws override any claims to human rights or religious objections. As mentioned by the Ontario Human Right Commission, this has not been tested in court.

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.


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