Quebec Superior Court rejects request to suspend COVID-19 passport system

People walk by a sign outside a restaurant advising customers of the Quebec government's newly implemented Covid-19 vaccine passport in Montreal, Monday, September 6, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

A Quebec Superior Court judge on Wednesday denied a request to suspend the province’s COVID-19 vaccine passport system, ruling that there was little evidence suggesting the damage caused by the health order went beyond disappointment or inconvenience.

Lawyer Hans Mercier, who was vaccinated against COVID-19, and businessman Gaston Vachon, who wasn’t, had requested for the judge to urgently suspend the health order while their challenge made its way through the court system. They argued the passport system, imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, was a violation of people’s charter rights, tore the social fabric of society and turned non-vaccinated people into social pariahs.

According to the court decision, Mercier argued the passport system coerces Quebecers to get vaccinated. “For me, it’s unthinkable to live in a society that forces people to carry out a medical act that undermines their physical integrity.”

READ MORE: As COVID-19 cases rise in Canada, officials say not to worry

The government imposed vaccine passports across the province on Sept. 1. People are required to show proof of vaccination to enter businesses the government deems non-essential, as well as hospitals and the legislature in Quebec City.

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Justice Nancy Bonsaint said the complainants didn’t prove that the province’s vaccine passport system caused a serious or irreparable prejudice and needed to be immediately suspended.

Being banned from certain non-essential social activities, she said, is not a serious injustice. “In the absence of convincing proof that the prejudice goes beyond disappointment or inconvenience ? the court concludes that we are not in the presence of serious prejudice.”

Quebecers, meanwhile, will continue to have to show proof of vaccination to enter certain businesses, such as bars and restaurants, until the court challenge can be heard on its merits. A date has not been set for the full challenge to the passport system.

Earlier on Wednesday, Quebec reported 672 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials said COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by one, to 220, while the number of people in intensive care remained stable at 45.

The Health Department said 10,487 vaccine doses were administered in the previous 24 hours. Quebec’s public health institute said about 90.8 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 88.3 per cent are considered adequately vaccinated.

The northern Nunavik territory continues to be the most affected region of the province, with 1,339 active COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Montreal, by contrast, has about 78 active cases per 100,000 people.

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Quebec has 5,377 active reported cases of COVID-19.

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