Liberty Coalition Canada (LCC) is helping students apply for religious vaccination exemptions after Western University announced that a third COVID-19 booster dose is needed to be considered vaccinated.
As of September 28, Western was the only university in Canada to require all of its students, faculty and staff to receive a third dose of the vaccine. The University of Toronto had a three-dose vaccine requirement, but only for those living on campus, and of 8,400 students, 1% requested an exemption.
“While we cannot predict when the next wave of COVID-19 may arrive, we believe these measures will help us protect the in-person experience that Western is known for,” said Florentine Strzelczyk, vice president and vice president. -President of Western. an August press release, where the university touts its past tenure and how it led to a 99% vaccination rate.
But many staff and students objected to the third dose requirement. The University of Western Ontario Staff Association objected, saying it violated their collective agreement and provincial human rights laws. Additionally, hundreds of students marched on campus to protest the mandate on August 27.
On September 6, Western extended its deadline to have a third dose from October 2022 to January 2023.
LCC is a Christian-affiliated organization that defends “human rights and constitutional freedoms with legal support”. The organization says part of its mission is to offer legal support to Canadians whose “legitimate freedoms” are challenged.
In an Oct. 6 Facebook post, LCC said Western had turned down many requests from Christian students who wanted a religious exemption. Some of the students who asked received their first two doses, while others received no doses.
He said one student was granted permission to be exempted from vaccination through the efforts of his chief counsel, James Kitchen, but others were not.
“Through its attorneys, Western has refused to retract these denials. The reason? According to Western’s attorneys, the Christian beliefs of these students should not be uniquely personal to them as they are shared by other students. Apparently, according to Western, when Christian students share similar Christian beliefs, those beliefs are no longer protected by law,” LCC said.
“Liberty Coalition Canada is mobilizing to help these students by providing free legal representation through James Kitchen.
The Epoch Times contacted Western University for comment, but did not immediately hear back at press time.
LCC has posted its correspondence (pdf) with Western on its website. In Western’s letter denying a student’s request, the school cited Syndicat Northcrest c. Amselem.
“Here, the Court ruled that it ‘must consider whether an individual’s belief has a ‘religious nexus,’ in which an individual demonstrates that he or she sincerely believes or undertakes in order to connect with the divine or according to his or her spiritual faith. This requires the individual to demonstrate their sincere personal belief and that their belief, and any act or omission required, has a religious connection.
He said the appeal did not “speak” to the student’s “personal and sincere beliefs” and said the application was a model affidavit and that he had received several identical affidavits.
At the end of the letter, he asked the student to submit additional information and said he would “review it carefully.”
Andrew Chen and Noé Chartier contributed to this report.