The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) last week announced that while receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary, a person who chooses not to be vaccinated based on personal preference does not have the right to accommodation under the Ontario province’s Code (OHRC policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates).
“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,” the agency, established in 1961 to administer the Ontario Human Rights Code, said in a statement.
“The OHRC and relevant human rights laws recognize the importance of balancing people’s right to non-discrimination and civil liberties with public health and safety, including the need to address evidence-based risks associated with COVID-19,” the agency’s statement continued.
On September 1, 2021, the Ontario government announced that starting September 22, Ontario residents will need to be fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and provide proof of vaccination along with a photo ID to access certain public settings and facilities.
By October 22, Ontario plans to develop and implement an enhanced digital vaccine certificate with a unique QR (Quick Response) code that will verify vaccination status when scanned. A paper version of the certificate will be available for download or can be printed from the COVID-19 vaccination provincial portal.
The proof of vaccine regime currently applies to certain higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn. In addition to these settings, over the last few months, many other organizations have begun to mandate vaccines for employees and service users.
The OHRC urged governments and organizations 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 racial communities, people who are experiencing homelessness, or with mental health disabilities and/or addictions.
However, under the provincial regime, organizations are responsible for making sure they meet the required proofs of identification and vaccination as outlined in the regulation. Service users must make sure any information they provide to the organization show proof of vaccination (or proof of qualifying for an exemption like a doctor’s note) and if identification is complete and accurate. There are fines for both individuals and organizations that fail to comply.
According to the OHRC, “Even if a person could show they were denied a service or employment because of a creed-based belief against vaccinations, the duty to accommodate does not necessarily require they be exempted from vaccine mandates, certification or COVID testing requirements. The duty to accommodate can be limited if it would significantly compromise health and safety amounting to undue hardship – such as during a pandemic.”
Is Canada civilized enough for y’all?