Here's what you need to know about the Ontario human rights code vaccine exemption
Does the the Ontario Human Rights Code provide an exemption from vaccine mandates for anti-vaxxers?
It's a question some concerned residents are asking as post-secondary institutions and workplaces are beginning to implement mandatory vaccine policies in an effort to protect residents amid the emerging fourth wave.
While 72.5 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and up now officially have two doses of the vaccine, there remains a portion of Ontario residents that refuse to get innoculated—presenting a serious threat to the overall population thanks to the highly contagious Delta variant.
New vaccine mandates are therefore coming as a relief to those who've taken the necessary steps to protect themselves and their community, but some are wondering whether those who refuse to get vaccinated will be able to find a loophole under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
According to the OHRC, workplaces are free to introduce vaccine mandates if they so choose.
"Requiring proof of vaccination to ensure fitness to safely perform work, or protect people receiving services or living in congregate housing, may be permissible under the Code if the requirement is made in good faith and is reasonably necessary for reasons related to health and safety," reads an OHRC news release about COVID-19 and the code.
Do mandates infringe on liberties? While mandates can in some ways (justifiably) limit liberties (much like other acceptable interventions), they can also be liberty enhancing as they facilitate businesses/schools staying open and make it less risky for people to enjoy them. /6— Maxwell Smith (@maxwellsmith) August 11, 2021
This doesn't mean that workplaces or instutitions can force people to get vaccinated but, as bioethicist and assistant professor at Western University Maxwell Smith explained on Twitter this week, a vaccine mandate in no way forces anyone to receive the vaccine if they don't want it.
"Vaxx policies/mandates do not force anyone to be vaccinated," wrote Smith on Twitter Wednesday. "It's erroneous to call this a forced medical intervention or to reference Nuremberg. Informed consent is still required and people can still choose to not be vaccinated. There are simply consequences to one's choice."
With any vax policy, an ethical imperative exists to ensure everyone has a meaningful opportunity to be vaccinated, that we promote equity & trust by ensuring some populations are not disproportionately disadvantaged, & frequently evaluate the continued need for the policy /11— Maxwell Smith (@maxwellsmith) August 11, 2021
Those who are unable to receive the vaccine for medical reasons are protected under the code, however, and organizations have a duty to accommodate people who may be unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccine due to disability.
Those who are unable to receive a vaccine and who require an accommodation as the result of a medical condition or other grounds protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code should be accommodated, but should still take steps to protect public health (e.g., frequent testing). /10— Maxwell Smith (@maxwellsmith) August 11, 2021
And though the OHRC does include general exemptions based on creed, which means a set of beliefs, that argument likely doesn't fly in this case.
"The OHRC's position is that a singular belief or personal preference against vaccinations or masks does not appear to be protected on the ground of creed under the Code," reads the release.
"The requirement to wear a mask or prove vaccination may represent a reasonable and bona fide requirement for health and safety reasons, especially when serious risks to public health and safety are shown to exist like during a pandemic."
So no matter how many times the anti-vaxxers in your life try to tell you that vaccine mandates violate their human rights, you can take comfort in knowing that the OHRC—in most instances—disagrees.
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