Transport Department Offered Advice to Airlines on Rejecting COVID-19 Vaccine Exemptions: Internal Documents

Transport Department Offered Advice to Airlines on Rejecting COVID-19 Vaccine Exemptions: Internal Documents
People wait in line to check in at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on May 12, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
Peter Wilson

Transport Canada lawyers offered advice to airlines on how to reject Canadians’ requests for religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination requirements for travel, internal documents show.

“These types of exemptions are anticipated to be granted very rarely,” said a November 2021 memo obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter through Access to Information records, along with several other transport department documents.

“It is not sufficient for the passenger to state they have a certain religious belief and they cannot be vaccinated,” said another memo.

“They must explain how vaccination would conflict with their religious belief in a way that is not trivial or insubstantial, meaning being vaccinated conflicts with the genuine connection with the divine.”

In the same memo, staff described religion as usually involving “a particular and comprehensive system of faith and worship” along with “belief in a divine, superhuman or controlling power.”

“[Saying] ‘I don’t believe in vaccination’ would not in itself be a reason,” the memo said.

An October memo from the Treasury Board said only the “sincerity”—not the “validity”—of claimed religious beliefs must be questioned when considering exemptions.

“The requirement is to focus on the sincerity of the individual belief rooted in religion not whether it is recognized by other members of the same religion,” read the memo titled “Managers’ Toolkit For The Implementation Of The Policy On Covid-19 Vaccination.”

The memos dated from roughly the same time the Liberal cabinet introduced its vaccine mandate for travel. Running from late October 2021 until its suspension in June 2022, the mandate stated that passengers must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all commercial flights and federally regulated transportation sectors.

‘False Empirical Beliefs’

The transport memos stated that there are “a number of false empirical beliefs” surrounding COVID-19 vaccines, mostly concerning “development, the contents, effects or purpose of the vaccines.”

“These are not however grounds on which a temporary exemption can be granted,” it read.

“For example, a conviction the Covid-19 vaccine contains aborted human or animal fetal cells or that DNA is altered by mRNA vaccines is empirically incorrect and should not be used as a rationale for the granting of a religious exemption even were this belief is sincerely held or rooted in religion,” it continued.

A Transport Canada briefing package recently obtained by The Epoch Times showed that there were inconsistencies between which airlines granted religious vaccination exemptions and which did not.
The briefing, titled “Vaccine Mandate – Reporting Snapshot for ADMs [Assistant Deputy Ministers],” said that WestJet approved far more religious exemptions than any other airline.

“Westjet reported 50 religious exception requests and 90 granted. Westjet continues to receive the highest number of requests week over week of all entities reporting,” it read.

The briefing also stated that 872 religious exemptions were approved out of 2,272 requests—with WestJet having granted 633 of them.

Noé Chartier contributed to this report.