There may be concerns that vaccination polices or use of vaccine passports could violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or human rights laws, and legal challenges may be raised. Here is a summary of Canadian human rights laws:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects seven categories of rights and freedoms, including fundamental, democratic, mobility, legal, equality, and languages.
These rights and freedoms are not absolute. There may be limits, including when an individual’s personal opinions and beliefs (such as about vaccination and other public health measures) could infringe on the rights of other individuals, or undermine complex public programs and policies.
The Charter only applies to governmental decisions, actions, or laws. Examples include federally regulated workplaces, workers in the public service, national public health laws, and international transportation and travel (e.g., border closures and restrictions, and pre/post travel testing, vaccination, quarantine).
The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) applies to federally regulated workplaces and workers.
The CHRA prohibits discriminatory practices (CHRA, Part 1, s.5-11) against individuals based on prohibited grounds (CHRA, Part 1, s.3). These prohibited grounds are “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability, or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.” With respect to vaccination policies, exemptions will most commonly be sought on the basis of disability and religion.
As with the Charter, there are legal exceptions and these rights are not absolute. The duty to accommodate a valid exemption ends if that accommodation would reach the threshold of ‘undue hardship’ for the employer. (CHRA, Part 1, s.15(1) and s.15(2)).
The Provincial and Territorial Human Rights Acts or Codes apply to workplaces that are regulated under their respective provincial and territorial jurisdictions.
These laws provide equal access with respect to services, goods, and facilities, and also prohibit discrimination based on personal characteristics. Often referred to as ‘protected grounds’, these include race, colour, ancestry, nationality, place of origin, religion, creed, political belief, language, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical or mental disability, social condition, marital status, and family status. Each jurisdiction may use slightly different words to describe similar protected grounds.
Refer to your jurisdiction for details:
Alberta Human Rights Act
British Columbia Human Rights Code
Manitoba Human Rights Code
Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act
New Brunswick Human Rights Act
Northwest Territories Human Rights Act
Nova Scotia Human Rights Act
Nunavut Human Rights Act
Ontario Human Rights Code
Prince Edward Island Human Rights Act
Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Saskatchewan Human Rights Code
Yukon Human Rights Act