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Legal Advocacy Group to Challenge Ontario Government in Court Over Its Now-Scrapped Vaccine Mandate

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A legal advocacy organization is taking the Ontario government to court for its past COVID-19 vaccine passport program, which required residents to show proof of vaccination to participate in or enter a wide array of services, events, and public places between Sept. 22, 2021 and March 1, 2022.

The mandate required Ontarians aged 12 and older to provide proof of having received at least two COVID-19 vaccine doses, along with photo identification, before entering “certain public settings and facilities,” such as restaurants, sporting facilities, and indoor movie theatres.

On July 26 and 27, over four months after the Ford government dropped its mandate, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is challenging the government in court  for what it says was a violation of Ontarians’ constitutional rights.

“The Justice Centre lawyers are arguing that excluding people, without proof of having two doses of the Covid shot, from everyday societal activities is a violation of their rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” it said in a press release.

“The Justice Centre lawyers will argue that the passport system is coercive, arbitrary, and discriminatory, and that it removed the Ontarians’ free and informed consent to a medical procedure or intervention.”

The Justice Centre is representing eight Ontarians in the case who claim the mandates denied them their freedom of movement and their right to make personal, uncoerced medical decisions.

Sarah Lamb, one of the court applicants, said she suffers from “a host of adverse effects” that began after receiving her first COVID-19 vaccine dose in May 2021. Instead of getting a second dose, Lamb said she applied for a medical exemption, but was denied, according to the Justice Centre release.

Another applicant, Jackie Ramnauth, claims the vaccine caused her serious medical harm. Ramnauth has suffered from blood clots for 15 years, and the Justice Centre says she decided not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine since the AstraZeneca shot “was found to be associated with blood clots.” The Justice Centre did not specify whether Ramnauth sought a medical exemption from the vaccine.

The Justice Centre also said that some of the court applicants had religious objections to the vaccine, but that Ontario’s passport system “failed to provide a category for exemption based on sincerely-held religious or conscientious beliefs.”

The mandate did not require people to show vaccination proof for outdoor public settings like restaurant patios and drive-in cinemas. The province also stipulated that of-age Ontarians who could not receive the vaccine for medical reasons could enter public places and events with an appropriate doctor’s note.

In October 2021, the Justice Centre sued the Ontario government over its vaccine passport system on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a September 2021 statement that the provincial vaccine mandate was intended to “keep people safe, protect our hospitals and minimize disruptions to businesses.”

Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said when announcing the mandates that vaccines provided the most effective protection available against COVID-19.

“We know vaccines provide the best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant,” she said in a statement.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report. 

Peter Wilson

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Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.

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