The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has tossed two complaints aimed at B.C.’s provincial health officer and Premier over the provincial COVID-19 vaccine card.
Typically, the tribunal does not publish screening decisions, which are made to determine if a complaint can be heard. However, due to receiving a “large volume” of inquiries and complaints alleging that the vaccine card is discriminatory, it was determined to be in the public interest, according to tribunal documents.
The first complaint was filed against Dr. Bonnie Henry, alleging that the proof of vaccination program discriminated against the claimant on the basis of disability. The complainant claimed to have asthma and a case of pneumonia as a child. The claimant also stated that he “does not want your experimental vaccine”.
Ultimately, his complaint was tossed because he failed to establish a connection between having asthma and not being fully vaccinated. The U.S.-based Allergy and Asthma Network said it is safe for people with asthma to get a COVID-19 vaccination, as they have not had an immediate or severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or any of its ingredients.
The second complaint was filed against Premier John Horgan, alleging the vaccine card amounted to discrimination on the grounds of political belief.
Human Rights Tribunal chair Emily Ohler wrote that political belief is only a ground of discrimination in relation to employment, employment advertisements and membership in employment-related organizations like unions.
The complainant filed her complaint on behalf of not only herself but a class of “people who are opposed to being forced into getting the COVID‐19 vaccination and getting our basic human rights and freedoms stripped from us.”
While Ohler agreed that a genuinely held belief opposing government rules regarding vaccination could be a political belief within the Human Rights Code, “I stress that protection from discrimination based on political belief does not exempt a person from following provincial health orders or rules.”
Ohler dismissed the complaint as it failed to prove how political opposition to the vaccine card adversely impacted the claimant’s employment and referred only to the announcement of the B.C. vaccine card, not any orders requiring employees in certain professions to be vaccinated.
Veronica Martisius of the BC Civil Liberties Association told Black PRess Media that there has been a rise in people who “mistakenly” believe their human rights are being violated by public health orders.
“Simply feeling oppressed by the government because you’ve been asked to wear a mask in a store or provide proof of vaccination to access non-essential services isn’t an acceptable human rights complaint under B.C. Human Rights Code,” she said.
Meanwhile, people with a disability that prevents them from wearing a face mask have a right to reasonable accommodation.
“Reasonable accommodation may include serving a customer outside or providing an online delivery service. If reasonable accommodation is not provided to someone with a disability, that may amount to discrimination.”
The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner — a separate entity from the Human Rights Tribunal which exists to provide education, advocacy and policy around the B.C. Human Rights Code — said they have received more than 1,000 phone calls and over 4,000 emails related to the B.C. vaccine card since Aug. 28.
B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender said in a statement to Black Press Media that while she understands how people feel the vaccine card is a violation of their rights and that medical exemptions are a vital accommodation, she does not believe the program violates human rights.
“A person who chooses not to get vaccinated as a matter of personal preference — especially where that choice is based on misinformation or misunderstandings of scientific information — does not have grounds for a human rights complaint.”
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.