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B.C. Supreme Court rules challenge to health worker vaccine mandate can proceed

Province sought to have challenge against the order tossed
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks during a COVID-19 update news conference. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has rejected the province’s request to throw out a legal challenge against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health-care workers.

Lawyers for provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry claimed the petition from the Canadian Society for the Advancement of Science in Public Policy (CSASPP) is not a reasonable or effective way to bring the issue before the courts because they are not health-care workers. The province contended that the CSASPP was a “purpose-built anti-COVID measures entity.”

The CSASPP — a Vancouver-based non-profit — claims that 41 of its 170 members are health-care workers, though both the PHO and the court found that evidence was “vague and inferential”.

Michael Warner, executive director for the CSASPP is a software developer with no relevant health-care expertise. His claim was dismissed as he was found not to have a legitimate private interest in the petition.

Justice Simon Covall ruled that the CSASPP has a legitimate “public interest” claim in challenging the order.

The petition seeks to overturn the public health order put in place last October that requires health-care workers in certain settings to have at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccines or be placed on administrative leave.

The CSASPP claims the order violates the rights of health-care workers by failing to accommodate people with religious or medical exemptions, recent negative COVID tests and natural immunity to the virus — measures that are in place in other provinces and countries.

“CSASPP alleges that its alternative proposals reflect a superior approach, taken in other Provinces and elsewhere around the world, much less intrusive on healthcare workers’ Charter rights. In my view, this raises substantial questions that meet the threshold of clearly not frivolous,” Covall wrote.

READ MORE: Disappointment and resignation as Quebec drops health worker vaccine mandate

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