University of Guelph students’ privacy not violated by vaccine mandate: privacy commissioner

University of Guelph . File / Global News

Ontario’s privacy commissioner says the University of Guelph‘s COVID-19 vaccine mandate did not violate the privacy of its students.

Three complaints were filed by the parents of students who had been accepted to live on campus for the 2021-22 school year.

They argued that the school’s vaccine mandate, which involved everyone on campus providing proof of vaccination and other information, breached their child’s privacy under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“To prove their COVID-19 vaccination status, the complainants advised that the students had to fill out and submit a questionnaire to the university. Further, they advised that students who sought an exemption still had to submit the questionnaire,” the report released on Tuesday stated.

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“However, the complainants claimed that the students were not required to submit the questionnaire when the university accepted their applications to live in the residences.”

The questionnaire asked students about the number of doses they received, whether they are requesting an exemption, proof of their vaccination receipt and their signature, along with other information pertaining to their doses.

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The privacy commissioner and the university both agreed that the school was collecting personal information from students, including their medical treatment history for COVID-19.

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But the watchdog also ruled that collecting this information for students in the residences was required to achieve its purpose of complying with the advice and recommendations of public health officials.

“Further, there is nothing before me to suggest or demonstrate that the university collected a greater amount, or other types, of personal information relating to students’ COVID-19 vaccination status,” the report stated.

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The privacy commissioner also found that notice of collection was in accordance with the Act.

The report, signed by investigator John Gayle, also noted that the decision regarding the collection of students’ vaccine information must be read in the context that existed at the beginning of the 2021-22 academic school year.

“Whether collection of this information can continue to be justified in future school terms must be continually reassessed and re-evaluated in accordance with applicable Ontario regulations and public health advice as they exist at that time,” the report stated.

The university has announced that it would be pausing its vaccine requirements as of May 1 but warned the mandates could return with little advance notice.

In the announcement, the university encouraged all students to get vaccinated and keep up with their booster doses.


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