A legal advocacy group is preparing to take the British Columbia government to court over its mandatory vaccine passport system, saying the policy is discriminatory because it does not allow exemptions for medical reasons.
B.C.’s vaccine card will soon be required to access non-essential services and businesses, including restaurants, bars, gyms, concerts, indoor sports events, and other indoor events such as weddings and conferences. The policy does not allow exemptions for medical reasons or for reasons of faith or conscience.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has asked the B.C. government to revoke the policy, which will go into effect on Sept. 13.
“The B.C. vaccine passport policy restricts access to certain public spaces to only people who are fully vaccinated. There are many people in B.C., and indeed across Canada, who wish they could be vaccinated but cannot be because of a medical condition,” CCF Litigation Director Christine Van Geyn said in a press release.
The B.C. government reaffirmed in a Sept. 7 press conference that the policy will not include exemptions for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. Starting Sept. 13, British Columbians must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to access non-essential services with the vaccine card, and two doses by Oct. 24.
In a letter addressed to B.C.’s Provincial Premier, Minister of Health, Attorney General, and Public Health Officer, the CCF raised concerns about the passport policy regarding Canadians’ equal rights set out in section 7 and section 15 of the Charter. Section 7 refers to the right to “life, liberty, and security” of the person, while section 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability or religion.
The letter expressed concerns about the policy’s failure to accommodate individuals with complex medical conditions, using the example of two B.C. residents who suffered adverse reactions after receiving their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and were thus unable to get a second dose.
“I’ve spoken to people who have had serious adverse reactions to the vaccine, who have complex anaphylaxis, blood clotting disorders, auto-immune disorders, and pre-existing heart conditions, like pre-existing heart inflammation,” Van Geyn said. “Some of these people use public spaces like gyms and pools as a regime of therapy for their disability, and the vaccine passport is restricting their ability to care for their health.”
Van Geyn said the COVID-19 vaccine may present a higher risk to these types of patients than it does for a healthy person, and it is “inappropriate for the government to try to force an outcome in one direction” through one-size-fits-all policies.
“The BC vaccine passport discriminates against people on the basis of their disabilities by denying them access to public spaces. The government has refused to make this accommodation, and we are now taking steps to litigate,” Van Geyn said.