The Department of Health Wednesday would not comment on its legal opinion that compulsory vaccination is unconstitutional. According to the findings from a 1996 report, "immunization is not mandatory in Canada," said the department's Canadian National Report On Immunization. "It cannot be made mandatory because of the Canadian Constitution."
The report noted even school immunization programs could not compel parents to vaccinate their children. "Legislation and regulations must not be interpreted to imply compulsory immunization," said the report by the Bureau of Infectious Diseases at the department's Health Protection Branch.
The department would not say if its legal counsel now has different advice justifying mandatory COVID immunization for select federal employees or air and rail passengers. Alex Beattie, a spokesperson for the department, called it a "complex question," reported Blacklocks.
In a May 19 statement, Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said compulsory vaccination was "an encroachment on civil liberties" that breaches the Privacy Act. His predecessor Commissioner George Radwanski testified at the 2002 hearings of the Commons justice committee that compulsory disclosure of medical information was a "massive violation of privacy."
"Your personal medical information is the most intimate and private information about you," testified Radwanski. "Our right to privacy is based above all on the notion of consent."
"Privacy means our right to control access to ourselves and information about ourselves," said Radwanski. He was commenting on Bill C-217, An Act To Provide For The Taking Of Samples Of Blood, a private Conservative bill to allow hepatitis tests of suspected patients on behalf of police and other first responders exposed to bodily fluids in their course duties. The justice committee rejected the bill.
On September 28, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed a blanket policy on compulsory vaccination. "We are going to ensure the federal public service is vaccinated," he said. "There is a clear requirement for vaccination for anyone who works for the federal government."
Cabinet said it would require hundreds of thousands of federal employees and travellers aboard federally regulated transportation to be vaccinated against COVID. However, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland detailed a vaccination program for federal employees in October exempting over 200,000 workers without mandating immunization proof.
Thousands of protestors in the 215,000-member Public Service Alliance of Canada, the largest federal union, joined a Facebook group opposed to compulsory vaccination. "Coercion and intimidation should have no place in a workplace policy," said anonymous authors with the Facebook group FedsForFreedom.ca.
The Facebook group has more than 3,000 members. Organizers said as many as a tenth of affected employees, more than 20,000, oppose mandatory immunization. "We represent a large group of united public servants, and our numbers are growing by the day," they write.
"The employer has created a new and arbitrary condition of employment and is enforcing it by use of involuntary leave without pay and threats of termination," wrote organizers. "What is the legal basis of mandating Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of employment given that vaccination for any communicable disease has never been a condition of employment?"