Organizations that impose COVID-19 mandates must also be responsible for the harms those mandates could potentially cause and cannot be absolved by claiming they were following orders from Health Canada, says ethicist Dr. Julie Ponesse.
Ponesse was fired from Ontario’s Huron University College in September after refusing to comply with the its mandatory COVID-19 vaccine mandate. She told The Epoch Times that she found the decision “very problematic” because the university did not do its due diligence to explore whether the public health mandate is ethically justified.
“This is really a very complicated issue because it gets to the heart of what rights and freedoms we really have in a democracy,” she said.
Ponesse said the issue raises questions about what rights and responsibilities organizations have when following orders from federal authorities.
“I don’t think the university gets to say, ‘Well, we’re imposing it just because Health Canada says we should,’ because if that mandate ends up causing harm, then the university is complicit in that harm,” she said.
“They’re partly responsible for that harm, and they can’t completely absolve themselves of responsibility—moral or legal responsibility—just by claiming that they were following the orders of Health Canada or the government.”
Ponesse was suspended from the college, which is affiliated with Western University, after a video in which she described the ethical dilemma she faced in refusing her employer’s vaccine mandate went viral on the internet.
The professor, who taught ethics in the philosophy department for 20 years, was terminated from her teaching position roughly a week after her suspension. Ponesse said the termination letter stated her refusal to comply with the school’s vaccine mandate as one of the reasons for her dismissal.
“I just don’t believe that the circumstances we had in Canada at the time warranted that kind of incursion into a person’s private medical information,” she said of the mandate.
According to Ponesse, Western University first rejected mandating COVID-19 vaccination for its staff but reversed course in August to require masking, social distancing, and proof of vaccination. The university also removed the testing option in lieu of providing vaccination proof around the time her video was published.
Ponesse said the university also accused her of using the video to gain publicity from the situation and accused her of spreading “misinformation”—a term she says is a product of “cancel culture” and increasingly used by authority figures to shut down legitimate discourse.
“The experts have a monopoly on truth and anybody else is malicious and a threat to democracy,” she said.
“When you call someone a misinformer these days, you don’t just mean that they’ve made an error in their calculation about what’s true. I think you mean that they are a plague on society and that therefore they need to be cast out.”
The Epoch Times reached out to both Huron University College and the University of Western Ontario for comment but did not receive a response.
Ponesse’s video was made in co-operation with the advocacy group Canadian Covid Care Alliance, a coalition of scientists, doctors, and health-care professionals who aim to provide “balanced evidence-based information to the Canadian public about COVID-19.”
Ponesse said she is not planning on taking legal action against Western over her dismissal because rights infractions around COVID-19 mandates have become widespread, and the solution will ultimately be found within society and through thoughtful discourse.
“I think the problems we face now are so systemic that it’s not clear to me that counter-narrative cases, or cases that challenge the narrative, are getting or will get, fair evaluation in our courts of law,” she said.
“I think we need to change the culture. We need to open up in people’s minds that there’s another way to look at this before we’re going to see judges … being brave enough even just to hear expert testimony and to look at the evidence.”
Since leaving her teaching position, Ponesse has continued to work with the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, and has joined constitutional rights organization The Democracy Fund as its pandemic ethics scholar.