Lawsuit over University of Lethbridge COVID-19 vaccine policy thrown out in court

A vial of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at an Alberta Health Services vaccination clinic in Didsbury, Alta., Tuesday, June 29, 2021. A Court of King's Bench judge has thrown out a court case against the University of Lethbridge for its COVID-19 vaccination policy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh. Give immunocompromised kids 3 Pfizer COVID-19 shots for best protection: NACI

A Court of King’s Bench judge has thrown out a court case against the University of Lethbridge for its COVID-19 vaccination policy.

The lawsuit was filed last December by Hayley Nassichuk-Dean, who was described as a U of L student from the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2021. She was also a member of the U of L soccer team.

According to the suit, she registered as a student for the 2021-22 academic year, hoping to finish her studies by the end of the school year and then proceed with veterinary studies.

When the U of L imposed a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for students and staff in order to attend in-person classes on last November, Nassichuk-Dean sought an exemption based on her religious beliefs.

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Her requests were denied, which resulted in her being unable to take courses that year. She then claimed the policy infringed on her right to life, liberty and religious freedom.

In the suit, she asked the Court of King’s Bench for a declaration that the vaccination policy contravenes sections 7, 2A of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She also asked for a declaration that rejecting her requests for a religious exemption is illegal and a breach of Section 4 of the Alberta Human Rights Act.

Click to play video: 'Lawsuit launched against Alberta Health Services over vaccine mandate'
Lawsuit launched against Alberta Health Services over vaccine mandate

Justice David Vaughn Hartigan tossed out the case at a hearing in May, saying he has no jurisdiction over the matter.

He also said the court cannot grant the declarations Nassichuk-Dean requested because the vaccination policy is no longer in place. The U of L rescinded the policy in March.

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“Ms. Nassichuk-Dean’s vaccination status, whatever it may be, will have no effect on her ability to attend the university in the future. In that respect, the issue has become an academic enterprise,” Hartigan said in a decision posted on Tuesday.

“Even if this Court had jurisdiction to issue such a declaration, the fact that Ms. Nassichuk-Dean could have sought a remedy under the Alberta Human Rights Act and declined to do so further weighs against making that declaration.”

Hartigan also said any declarations made may lack context since the circumstances are very specific to U of L’s short-lived vaccination policy meant to address a public health crisis. The vaccination policy was made in the context of a constantly changing pandemic, and had taken into account the efficacy and availability of vaccines, Hartigan said.

“It is difficult to imagine a similar set of circumstances arising again,” Hartigan said. “As such, a declaration on so narrow and specific a factual context would have no future public utility.”

–with files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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