Aviation Advocacy Group Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Feds Over Mandatory COVID Shots

Aviation Advocacy Group Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Feds Over Mandatory COVID Shots
An Air Canada flight departing for Toronto taxis to a runway as a WestJet flight bound for Palm Springs takes off, at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., in a file photo. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)
Marnie Cathcart
5/17/2023
Updated:
5/17/2023

Free to Fly Canada, an advocacy group for pilots and aviation employees, has filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government over mandatory workplace vaccination policies.

The organization said in a May 17 news release that it has chosen representative plaintiffs Greg Hill, Brent Warren, and Tanya Lewis, and will argue that the rights of thousands of Canadian aviation employees were violated by Transport Canada’s regulation, Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirements for Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19, No. 43.

The legal action names as defendants the federal government and the minister of transportation.

The class action is open to unvaccinated employees who were affected by the Transport Canada Order, whether they were suspended, put on unpaid leave, fired, or coerced into early retirement, said Free to Fly. Interested aviation employees can sign up on the Free to Fly website.

“These suspensions were often called a leave of absence by employers, but given their involuntary nature were not thus, by definition. We have been failed by our government, unions, and employers, and this proceeding is a means to fight back,” said the news release.

The group said this is the first time a case of this type has been brought in Canadian courts. The class action now has to be certified by a court to proceed, which is standard procedure.

Plaintiffs

Hill, a resident of Ontario, was a captain for Air Canada, according to court documents, with an “exemplary and unblemished record” from his start date in 2006 until he was suspended in 2021 under the mandatory vaccination policy. Air Canada was contacted for comment but did not reply by press time.

Lewis, who lives in Alberta, was employed by WestJet Airlines as a flight attendant, with a perfect record since 2011. According to court documents, she was suspended in 2021 and then fired in 2022 under WestJet’s mandatory vaccination policy.

WestJet was contacted for comment but did not reply by press time.

The third representative plaintiff, Warren, was a station attendant at Vancouver International Airport for Air Canada. He had worked for the airline since 2005 with an exemplary record and was suspended in 2021, also due to Air Canada’s mandatory vaccination policy.

All three employees belonged to unions and had employment terms governed by collective agreements. They have brought the class action lawsuit on the basis that their contractual employment agreements were breached and that their constitutional rights guaranteed under the charter were infringed upon.

Government Orders

On Oct. 31, 2021, all employees in federally regulated air and rail transportation sectors were told they would be required to comply with vaccination policies, after an announcement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, according to court documents.

Transport Canada was tasked with using its regulatory and oversight authority to enforce the policy, which compelled employees to provide their vaccine status. According to the legal documents filed by Free to Fly, the federal government said every airline “would be required to guarantee that employees were fully vaccinated or they would be unable to work.”

The lawsuit alleges the newly introduced mandatory vaccination policy added a fundamental change and new condition of employment to existing contracts unlawfully.

The applicants to the lawsuit have either refused to disclose their vaccination status to their employers, or were unvaccinated, and were placed on leave without pay, suspended, or fired.

“We’ve sought to research carefully, not rush to court, and that’s enabled us to learn and adjust as we’ve observed the challenging Canadian judicial landscape,” Hill told The Epoch Times on May 17.

He said the action alleges “the government, through their Interim Order for Civil Aviation, induced the breach of contractual agreements we had with our employers leading to various serious harms, including suspension or termination.”

“This is a unique approach not taken by anyone else to date, but it applies directly to a wide class of aviation employees subjected to that Order, and we look forward to this pursuit of restorative justice,” said Hill.

The Epoch Times contacted the office of Transport Minister Omar Alghabra for comment but did not hear back by press time.

Marnie Cathcart is a former news reporter with the Canadian edition of The Epoch Times.
twitter
Related Topics