Anti-vaxxers don’t have a right to accommodations, Ontario human rights watchdog says
Sept. 27, 2021
People who choose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine due to personal preferences or “singular beliefs” do not have a right to accommodations under Ontario’s human rights law, the province’s rights watchdog says
The decision to get vaccinated is voluntary, and a “person who chooses not to be vaccinated based on personal preference does not have the right to accommodation under the (Human Rights Code),” the Ontario Human Rights Commission said this week in a policy paper discussing the limits of vaccine mandates and proof-of-vaccination requirements.
While human rights law prohibits discrimination based on creed -- someone’s religion, or a non-religious belief system that shapes their identity, world view and way of life -- personal preferences or singular beliefs do not amount to a creed, the commission said, adding it “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.”
Furthermore, even if someone can show they have been denied service or employment over their creed, “the duty to accommodate does not necessarily require they be exempted from vaccine mandates, certification or COVID testing requirements,” the commission said. “The duty to accommodate can be limited if it would significantly compromise health and safety amounting to undue hardship -- such as during a pandemic.”
Ontario rolled out its long-awaited vaccine certificate requirement Wednesday, limiting access to indoor dining, meeting spaces, gyms, concert venues and more. Anyone seeking to enter these settings must show ID and proof they have been fully vaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated can download their proof documents online.
The province’s plan has exceptions for those under age 12 (who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated) and anyone with a doctor’s note saying they have a valid medical reason they can’t be vaccinated.
The commission is responsible for administering and enforcing Ontario’s human rights laws and is being led by newly-appointed chief commissioner Patricia DeGuire, who began a two-year term in August.
In its policy paper, the commission explained that vaccine mandates and proof requirements are “generally permissible,” but must offer reasonable accommodations for people who are “unable to be vaccinated for Code-related” reasons, such as a disability or a medical reason. The commission added that this standard would apply to any organizations seeking to impose vaccine restrictions.
Exempting people with medically documented reasons is a “reasonable accommodation,” said the commission.
Testing those who are unable to be vaccinated for the virus is an “option” for organizations, and the costs should be covered as “part of the duty to accommodate,” it said.
The commission also emphasized that restrictions that deny people access to employment or services on grounds protected under human rights law may be acceptable, but should only be used for the “shortest possible” length of time.
Shameela Shakeel, co-chair of York Communities for Public Education, stands beside a sign on her lawn voicing her opposition to the hybrid learning system. Shakeel says hybrid learning in the YRDSB is harmful for students and is overwhelming teachers.
“Such policies might only be justifiable during a pandemic. They should regularly be reviewed and updated to match the most current pandemic conditions, and to reflect up-to-date evidence and public health guidance.”
The commission also urged the provincial and municipal governments to “take proactive steps to make sure any enforcement of vaccine mandates or proof of vaccination policies does not disproportionately target or criminalize Indigenous peoples, Black and other racialized communities, people who are experiencing homelessness, or with mental health disabilities and/or addictions.”Human rights complaints are handled provincially by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Complaints about federally overseen organizations, such as banks, airlines and federal government, can be made to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.