This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Thomas B, Flood CM, Krishnamurthy V, Tanner R, Wilson K. Human rights legislation and vaccination mandates. C.D. Howe Institute. 2022 Feb 4.

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

A commentary by a CITF-funded researcher, published by the C.D. Howe Institute, discusses the differences in implementing vaccination mandates in businesses vs. in government sectors. The authors highlight the need for businesses to strike a careful balance between accommodating individuals with medical issues and managing potential risks, considering factors such as workplace conditions and alternative arrangements. The research was led by Dr. Kumanan Wilson (University of Ottawa).

Key messages:

  • COVID-19 vaccination rules apply differently in the government and private sectors. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to government action, while provincial human rights laws apply to the private sector. The latter are narrower in scope and mainly focused on preventing or remedying discrimination.
  • Businesses are likely to face challenges based on religious or personal beliefs. Given that all major religions have endorsed COVID-19 vaccines, claiming discrimination based on personal religious beliefs would be difficult. Conscience protections do not apply to vaccine hesitancy grounded in views about vaccine efficacy or government regulators.
  • A small group unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons may be protected under disability rights. However, businesses may be legally justified in applying increased scrutiny to physician-issued medical exemptions, given the potential increased risk of accommodating unvaccinated individuals in the workplace.

In the future, businesses must anticipate issues that may arise in implementing vaccination requirements and be prepared to respond to potential challenges of discrimination based on religion, conscience, or disability.