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e-3592 (Civil and human rights)

E-petition
Initiated by Veronique Audette from Hamilton, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • Section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedom says Canadians have the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada;
  • Section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedom says Canadians have freedom of conscience and religion;
  • Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedom says Canadians are not allowed to be discriminated against based on, for example, mental or physical ability (health);
  • Canadians have the right to informed choice when it comes to vaccines and other medical treatments, they cannot be forced or coerced;
  • Canadians want their freedom of movement and right to privacy of their personal health data to be positively affirmed by the government;
  • Vaccine passports or certificates could impact different sectors of the economy (travel, tourism, hospitality for instance) and the quality of life of many Canadians and residents of Canada;
  • Vaccine passports do not recognize the robust immunity of those with previous infection, and coerce those with natural exposure to become vaccinated, despite limited data on the safety of these vaccines for these people; and
  • It is the sacred duty of the Government of Canada to guard against discrimination and guarantee the freedoms secured to Canadians.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to:
1. Ensure that freedom of participation in life and access to public spaces in Canada is not contingent on being vaccinated or having a vaccine passport or certificate; and
2. Protect the fundamental civil rights of Canadians by disallowing vaccine passport certificates nationally.

Response by the President of the Treasury Board

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Greg Fergus

According to section 3 of the Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the objective of the policy is:

  1. To take every precaution reasonable, in the circumstances, for the protection of the health and safety of employees. Vaccination is a key element in the protection of employees against COVID-19.
  2. To improve the vaccination rate across Canada of employees in the core public administration through COVID-19 vaccination.
  3. That, given operational requirements may include ad hoc onsite presence, all employees, including those working remotely and teleworking must be fully vaccinated to protect themselves, colleagues, and clients from COVID-19.

The Policy on Covid-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is about ensuring that as many public servants who are able to be vaccinated are vaccinated. All employees, regardless of where they work, are covered by the Policy to protect their health and safety. Vaccination is one of the most effective tools we have at our disposal to protect broader public health in the face of COVID-19, and to prevent future outbreaks. Vaccination—used in combination with preventive public health measures—offers the best available protection for Canadians.

As the country’s largest employer, the Government of Canada is leading by example. We know that having a fully vaccinated workforce means that not only are worksites safer, so are the communities where this large population lives and works. It also means better protection for Canadians accessing government services in person.

On October 6, 2021, the Treasury Board of Canada announced its Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination for the Core Public Administration Including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Policy is compliant with legislation, including the Privacy Act, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and collective agreements. The Policy provides for addressing requests for accommodation based on any prohibited ground of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act, on a case-by-case basis.

On October 21, 2021, the Canadian Human Rights Commission published a guide on vaccination policies and human rights, which states that “Rights are not absolute. […] Requiring that an individual be vaccinated to work or travel is not a discriminatory practice under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Vaccination requirements are not a discriminatory practice because they are intended (and are necessary) to protect public health and safety.”

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Adam van Koeverden

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has supported Canadians by implementing policies and public health measures (including access to vaccination) to minimize serious illness and overall deaths while preserving health system capacity and reducing transmission to protect high-risk populations.

As well, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has provided guidance and advice on recommended public health measures, at both the individual and community level, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of people living in Canada. PHAC’s guidance is informed by scientific evidence, expert opinion and established public health practices.

Vaccination is one of the most effective tools we have to combat the pandemic and keep Canadians safe. While provinces and territories are responsible for establishing vaccination requirements and public health measures within their jurisdictions, vaccine requirements and masking mandates were introduced in summer/fall 2021 across a number of areas of federal jurisdiction, namely at the border, among federal public servants, and within the federally-regulated transportation sector.

Vaccine-related requirements and public health measures have helped keep Canadians safe including by supporting safe working conditions and spaces for federal public service workers and travellers on federally regulated transport.

Provinces and territories also developed their own guidance and plans, and adjusted their respective public health measures, such as implementing or easing restrictive measures, masking mandates and vaccine requirements, according to local circumstances.

At the time federal vaccine-related requirements and masking mandates were introduced, overall vaccination rates were significantly lower (<80% nationally). At that time, there was strong scientific evidence from international and domestic sources on which to conclude that vaccines were very effective at preventing against infection and transmission of the specific, then-circulating COVID variants (such as Alpha and Delta), as well as protecting against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. As is still the case, the benefits of vaccination were considered to outweigh any safety risks, and vaccines supported the possibility of achieving widespread immunity.

In addition, the epidemiological situation at the time the vaccine mandates were established and to which they were responding was as follows:

  • There was an ongoing rapid acceleration of Delta variant COVID-19 cases that was reflected in increasing severe illness, most notably among unvaccinated; the majority of hospitalized and ICU patients were not fully vaccinated.
  • Regional trends showed hospital and ICU occupancy increasing.
  • Long-range forecast modelling showed strong resurgence, such that increased vaccine uptake and strengthened public health measures were required to reduce spread and to slow acceleration.
  • Even though vaccine coverage had increased at that time, uptake remained lower in some areas or subpopulations, particularly in younger individuals.

Canada’s measures are based on review, analysis and expert opinion on a rapidly increasing and evolving body of scientific evidence related to the virus, its characteristics, its epidemiology, its impacts, emerging variants of concern, the value and impact of public health interventions, and the impact of vaccination and vaccine effectiveness. A number of sources (including sources external to the Government of Canada) provide access and reference to international and domestic pre-print and peer-reviewed research studies and summaries of the evidence, such as:

As the epidemiological context evolves, the federal government will continue to work with provincial and territorial counterparts in monitoring the situation, and assess and re-assess the appropriate public health guidance. It will also continue to work with provinces and territories on a pan-Canadian standardized proof of vaccination credential for Canadians to demonstrate their vaccination status in a secure and reliable way when travelling internationally as long as our foreign partners require it.

Response by the Minister of Labour

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): TERRY SHEEHAN

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for their engagement on this issue.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, keeping Canadians safe and healthy has been the top priority of the Government of Canada. The Government understands the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have and is committed to protect workers and their families, while ensuring businesses can get back up to speed and public spaces are kept safe. Millions of Canadians have been doing their part by getting vaccinated, following public health guidelines, and delivering essential services.

Vaccines are our best line of defence against COVID-19 and widespread vaccination has helped our economy reopen and helped many people return to work. Scientists have developed safe vaccines that have proven to be very effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, including preventing hospitalization and death. By getting our shots, we are protecting our loved ones, vulnerable people, those who can’t get vaccinated—and preventing further lockdowns.

On December 7, 2021, the Government of Canada announced its intention to develop regulations under Part II (Occupational Health and Safety) of the Canada Labour Code to make vaccination mandatory in federally regulated workplaces. Consultations with federally regulated stakeholders, including employer and employee representatives, were held in December 2021.

The Government of Canada is continuing to follow public health advice on COVID-19 and to hear the perspectives of federally regulated stakeholders, to determine the approach moving forward. At this time, no regulations have been enacted.

The Government of Canada continues to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and to follow public health recommendations and preventative measures to protect themselves and others in their communities.

Open for signature
November 3, 2021, at 9:40 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
February 1, 2022, at 9:40 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Dean Allison (Niagara West)
March 2, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00202)
Government response tabled
April 25, 2022
Photo - Dean Allison
Niagara West
Conservative Caucus
Ontario
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