Students Who Say They Were Harmed by Canada's COVID-19 Policies Testify at Independent Inquiry

Andrew Chen
TORONTO—University student Kayla Bishop was forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to continue her studies but suffered from heart damage following the shot, she told a citizens-based public hearing that invites Canadians who were adversely affected by COVID-19 measures to tell their stories.
Bishop, a student at Toronto Metropolitan University, was one of four university students who testified on the first day of A Citizens' Hearing, an independent inquiry into Canada's pandemic response hosted by the Canadian COVID Care Alliance from June 22 to June 24.

Bishop said she was hesitant about vaccines right off the bat when she saw how rushed the development of the COVID vaccines was.

"I found a couple articles about how the spike protein separated from COVID was damaging. I knew that vaccines used spike proteins, so I was concerned about the safety of that," she said. "I chose not to get vaccinated, also because I'm young, I'm healthy, I had no comorbidities, so my risk-benefit analysis [was that] it just didn't make sense to get vaccinated."

But after her school mandated vaccines, Bishop decided to get the shots for fear of increases to her student loans and delays to her career. However, after the second dose she had severe chest pain and was sent to the emergency room, she said. She was later diagnosed as heart damage, which she said still recurs from time to time.

When asked to comment on Bishop's case, Toronto Metropolitan University told The Epoch Times in an email that it had to "alter its activities and operations to protect individual and collective health," adding that it was legally required to comply with COVID-19 vaccination policies under the Reopening Ontario Act and to follow recommendations from public health officials.

A Question of Democracy

Bishop said her university didn't provide a risk-benefit analysis for the students when it pushed the vaccine policy, and that it would have encouraged a more open discourse on the issue if the students had been consulted.

"The university just mandated [the vaccines]. I don't think there was any sort of back-and-forth between the university and students," she said. "There was no dialogue between the university's administration and the students as far as I'm aware."

"I don't feel like universities should be the ones telling people what to do about medical decisions."

Former Reform Party leader and MP Preston Manning, founder of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, said Bishop's case leads to the larger question of Canada's democratic process when the authorities in academic, business, and other institutions imposed similar mandates without consulting the students or the employees.

"The government gives a mandate and orders to these institutions—in this case a university, as it does companies and everybody else—and the fact that there's no dialogue ... between that institution and the people that are involved in it as how to make this work, does this make sense? I think that's a very missing ingredient of how this whole thing was handled," said Manning, who served as a panelist at the June 22 event and spearheaded the independent inquiry.

"It's got ramifications beyond just student–university relations. Companies went ahead with mandates without discussions with their employees, other institutions did the same thing. It's an undemocratic way in one sense to process."

Russian Roulette

Henry Lu, a computer science student at the University of Toronto, said he was missing just one course before graduating when the school introduced the vaccine policy. A cancer survivor, he said was very protective of his medical privacy and didn't want to take the vaccine.

The university had some alternative options to accommodate people like him at the beginning, he said, but they were soon phased out, and to get an exemption in Ontario, people must receive the first dose and have reported adverse reactions.

"So you have to have gotten myocarditis from taking the first shot first, ... or you have to have some severe allergic reaction to taking the first shot. So they're making people play Russian roulette with the first shot and, hey, if you survive, they will grant you an exemption. That's not acceptable to me."

Lu was asked if Canada's COVID-19 response had shaken his belief in science.

"It hasn't shaken my belief of science at all because the science that they tout is not science. I follow the real science," Lu told the panelists, saying many so-called scientists just repeat the government's claims that the COVID vaccines are safe and effective.

"A doctor is supposed to be somebody who looks at each patient on an individual basis and comes up with a personalized solution to their problem. Everybody has different problems. Everybody has a different body," he said.

Impact on Family, Finances

Hayley Weinrauch, a single mother and a student in Saskatchewan, shared her story at the June 22 event about how vaccine mandates hurt her financial well-being and damaged her family relationships.

She said the mandate left her on unpaid leave from her job, and she was heartbroken when her university also required students to be vaccinated by December last year, or otherwise be forced to terminate their studies.

Weinrauch said she eventually got a religious exemption, but due to having to fight through a tedious process to get it, she has "lost a lot of faith in our society."

Weinrauch's sister, Jaiden Weinrauch, played rugby for her university in Nova Scotia, but was prohibited from joining team practice and lost her scholarship due to the school's vaccine mandates. The travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic also kept her from going home for Christmas and for her grandfather's funeral.

"It was definitely the hardest year of my life," she said. "Socially, I felt very isolated and very cut-off from everybody else."