Tribunal dismisses vaccine human rights complaints against Horgan, Henry

B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed complaints against provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Premier John Horgan that asserted British Columbians’ human rights had been violated on the grounds of disability and political belief.

Both complaints were dismissed in the screening stage. In the Sept. 9 decisions, the tribunal chairwoman said that neither of the complaints established facts showing a breach of B.C.’s Human Rights Code.

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The complaint against Henry alleged discrimination on the basis of physical disability as a result of the new B.C. Vaccine Card. The new card, announced Aug. 29, will be required to access a broad range of social, recreational, and discretionary events and businesses, including restaurants. British Columbians will need to start showing their card on Sept. 13.

In that case, the complainant said he had asthma, claiming it was a physical disability and thus covered by the code.

“He says only that ‘[i]n a news conference, it was announced that the experimental vaccine is being made mandatory,’ and that he does not want services limited ‘because of your experimental vaccine,’ ” tribunal chairwoman Emily Ohler said. “At best, the complainant references a prospective adverse impact, not one that he has actually experienced.”

Further, Ohler wrote, “he would then have to allege facts that could establish a connection between having asthma and not being fully vaccinated, such as his disability preventing him from being able to get vaccinated. An ideological opposition to or distrust of the vaccine would not be enough.”

In the complaint against Horgan, the complainant said they filed it on behalf of “people who are opposed to being forced into getting the COVID‐19 vaccination and getting our basic human rights and freedoms stripped from us.”

They alleged discrimination on the grounds of political belief.

“The British Columbia government has made a very aggressive and unjustified move that goes against our basic human right to bodily autonomy and medical freedoms,” the complainant said in the anonymized decision. “The government has no right to tell us what goes into our bodies or threatening us into getting this vaccination by taking away our basic rights and freedoms. This is segregation, discrimination, and derogatory, and has no place in modern society.”

Ohler said she accepted that one could have a genuinely held belief opposing government rules regarding vaccination and that such a belief could be a political belief within the meaning of the code.

“In saying this, however, I stress that protection from discrimination based on political belief does not exempt a person from following provincial health orders or rules,” Ohler said.

Ohler said the complainant did not identify how the vaccination requirement has affected her, or anyone else who objects to it, in their employment.

“The code does not permit a direct challenge to a public health order based merely on disagreement with it,” Ohler said. “Without allegations of an actual adverse impact experienced by the proposed class in their employment, this complaint could not establish a breach of the code.”

The tribunal does not usually release screening decisions but Ohler said the exemption was made due to high public interest in the issue.

In order to protect their privacy, the complainants were not identified, Ohler said.

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