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COVID-19: Three U of W Collegiate instructors sue school, province over vaccine mandate

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Three U of W Collegiate instructors suing school, province over vaccine mandate' COVID-19: Three U of W Collegiate instructors suing school, province over vaccine mandate
Three University of Winnipeg Collegiate instructors plan to take the province and school to court over a vaccine mandate they call “overboard, unreasonable and discriminatory.” – Jan 17, 2022

Three University of Winnipeg Collegiate instructors plan to take the province and school to court over a vaccine mandate they call “overboard, unreasonable and discriminatory.”

The University of Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba, and the chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin are named as defendants in the statement of claim that was filed last Monday.

Manitoba Health and the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration are also listed as defendants.

The three instructors say the U of W’s vaccine policy violates the Manitoba Human Rights Code.

The plaintiffs are Renise Mlodzinski, Evan Maltman and Kyle Du Val. Their time teaching at the institution spans between three and eight years.

The University of Winnipeg made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory starting Sept. 7, 2021. The policy requires anyone going inside a campus building to be fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated with plans to be fully immunized by Oct. 15, 2021.

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The plaintiffs say they did not receive notice of this requirement until Oct. 4, 2021.

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As a result of being unvaccinated, they were placed on involuntary unpaid leave of absence on Sept. 7, 2021. The claim says they have faced public “ridicule, hatred, discrimination and delegitimization,” among other forms of abuse because of their vaccine status.

“The collection of vaccine status is not confidential. The minute an employee is placed on unpaid leave, their status is immediately apparent.”

The three instructors contend the vaccine policy violates their Charter right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizures, including disclosing private medical information such as vaccine status or COVID-19 test results.

“The policy seeks to coerce employees to be vaccinated against their will, without informed consent. The Policy amounts to an expressed intention to engage in a conspiracy to commit assault.”

Read more: AHS threatened with constitutional challenge over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The plaintiffs also argue that vaccines are experimental and that they have not undergone long-term safety observation. They say a false sense of security has been created because of COVID-19 vaccines.

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They say the vaccines “merely provide some ‘benefits’ or ‘protection’ that in certain circumstances at best lessens severity of symptoms or potentially reduces the risk of hospitalization.”

They claim the ingredients of the vaccine have not been publicly disclosed, so people are not able to know whether they could be fatally allergic to any of them.

According to the statement of claim, “mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccine technology, and this is the first time that such vaccines are being administered to humans without widespread and lengthy clinical trials first being conducted.”

“The vaccination program in Canada is being adjusted on the fly as adverse effects manifest necessitating the need for constant amendments of safety guidelines. This underlines the experimental nature of these vaccines.”

Read more: Lawsuit launched against Alberta Health Services over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The instructors listed 11 damages they’ve suffered as a result, including severe and permanent psychological, physical and emotional trauma. They also say it’s caused loss of employment opportunities, post-traumatic stress disorder, and loss of trust in others among others.

The instructors are asking for a stay of the U of W’s vaccine mandate until it can be reviewed by a judge. They are also asking for up to a million dollars in damages for the “intentional infliction of mental distress, and assault and battery,” and another million in damages for violating their Charter rights.

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In a statement to Global News, the University of Winnipeg says: “The University of Winnipeg and the Collegiate are following public health directives, which are based on the best scientific evidence. Our vaccine mandate is part of our plan to ensure a safe working and learning environment for faculty, staff and students. The lawsuit is misconceived and will be challenged accordingly.”

Lawyer Leighton Gray, who is representing all three instructors, declined to comment.

The Manitoba government says it isn’t able to comment as the matter is before the courts. However, it said it “takes the health and wellbeing of all Manitobans into account when it drafts public health orders and relies on all Manitobans to do what is right.”

Legal Battle

Benjamin Hecht, a labour lawyer with Pitblado law, says the case was not surprising to him.

“The long and the short I’ll tell you about their claim … they’ve got a tough row to hoe,” he told Global News.

He says it’s unlikely this matter, and others that are similar, will succeed in court.

“They’re asking that the university … relax their policy pending the hearing. That’s not going to happen because a hearing could take years.”

On claiming it’s a violation of the Manitoba Human Rights Code, Hecht says, it’s not a viable argument.

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“My body, my choice — yes. But (the) overriding duty of safety and health concerns lets an employer make a policy about vaccinations,” he said.

The employee gets to choose to get vaccinated or not, and if not, he said, that means the employee can’t go to work.

“Personal choice or preference is not a protected … under the human rights code. And it cannot be justifiably argued that a person was discriminated against because of a choice or preference not to be vaccinated.”

He says it comes down to employees following the workplace health and safety act.

“The health and safety of the community at large has to take precedent over the needs of a group of anti-vaccine people or any one individual employee.”

The province has 20 days to file a statement of defence. However, Hecht says that’s only the first step of a process that could take years to work through the court system.

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