A student at the University of Lethbridge filed a lawsuit against the post-secondary school for its COVID-19 vaccination policy.
Hayley Nassichuk-Dean is described as a “fifth-year student… in the undergraduate biology program” who “plays on the U of L soccer team” in the lawsuit.
According to the suit, filed Dec. 7 at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, she registered as a student for 2021-22, hoping to finish her studies by the end of the school year and then proceed with veterinary studies.
The U of L announced its vaccination policy on Aug. 17, 2021, which gave the option of regular rapid COVID-19 testing to unvaccinated people attending the campus.
However, on Sept. 13, the university joined eight other Alberta post-secondary schools (University of Alberta, University of Calgary, MacEwan University, Medicine Hat College, Mount Royal University, NAIT, SAIT and NorQuest College) in updating its vaccine policy, requiring everyone attending campus to be fully vaccinated against the disease.
Rapid testing was no longer being accepted as an alternative to vaccination, except for campus community members who could not be vaccinated based on medical or other protected grounds outlined in the Alberta Human Rights Act.
According to the lawsuit, the student “made requests for a religious exemption both to her soccer team and the U of L.”
“The applicant inquired repeatedly as to whether there was anything she could do in order to complete her program in the winter semester, including taking online classes, but she was refused,” the court documents read. “Therefore, the applicant cannot complete her studies and graduate spring of 2022.”
The lawsuit argues the U of L’s vaccine policy and the school’s decisions infringe on the rights to life, liberty, security and religious freedom, and the “infringements are contrary to the principles of fundamental justice” and “constitute unlawful discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act.”
The claim is asking for a declaration that the U of L policy contravenes sections 7, 2A of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that it be quashed, a declaration that rejecting her requests for a religious exemption is illegal and a breach of Section 4 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, and should be quashed.
The lawsuit also asks that the costs of the court application — “further and other relief as counsel may advise and as this Hon. court deems just and equitable” — be covered by the university.
None of the claims have been proven in court.
The university has yet to file a response but told Global News: “The University of Lethbridge prioritizes, above all else, its responsibility to provide a safe and healthy campus environment for its students, faculty, staff and visiting community members.”
“From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has led the way with initiatives, policies and procedures designed to ensure our full community is able to teach and learn in an atmosphere of safety, support and understanding.
“The university’s vaccine mandate has proven to be highly effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 on its campuses and allowed for a successful return to primarily in-person classes for the entirety of the 2021 fall semester, providing students with the academic and social experience that was overwhelmingly requested.
“The method of course delivery was established in advance of registration, allowing students to make decisions based on where and how they wanted to learn and the vaccine mandate announced in advance of the course add/drop deadline.
“The university, in respecting the confidentiality of its students, will not comment on specific appeals of the vaccine mandate and, as this matter is now before the courts, cannot offer any further comment.”
The application is set to be heard in court on Tuesday in Lethbridge.