HAMILTON: The Justice Centre appeared in Court last week challenging McMaster University’s decision to remove four students from university programs because they decided against taking the Covid-19 vaccine. The Justice Centre represents two doctoral students, an MBA student at the DeGroote School of Business, and an Honours Biochemistry undergraduate student. A two-day hearing took place March 16 – 17, 2022 before a panel of three judges of the Ontario Divisional Court.
McMaster introduced a mandatory vaccination policy effective September 7, 2021. The policy requires all students, and employees, to take two doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines or face sanctions. Students were permitted to request exemptions to the mandatory vaccination policy, which were considered by the Equity and Inclusion Office. Some students were not told they would be withdrawn from their programs until after their exemption requests were submitted to McMaster.
The available Covid-19 vaccines are known to have been tested using a cell-line known as HEK-293, which McMaster’s own vaccine FAQ website states “are replications of tissue from elective abortions that happened 30 to 60 years ago.” The students requested exemptions from McMaster’s mandatory vaccination policy on religious and conscience grounds, however McMaster refused their exemption requests, claiming that there was no connection between the students’ religious beliefs and their refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
“McMaster’s decisions to potentially destroy the academic and future professional careers of these bright and promising students was heavy-handed and cruel. These students are honest, intelligent and sincere in their beliefs. We asked the Court to find that the University’s decision was unreasonable and that the process leading to it was unfair,” says Jorge Pineda, a lawyer at the Justice Centre.
“The four students are all devout Catholics or Orthodox Christians who, according to their faith, are obligated to avoid condoning or benefitting from abortion. While others may come to a different conclusion, these students’ religious beliefs require them to decline vaccination. McMaster’s claim that these students’ exemption requests have no nexus with their religious beliefs is absurd,” adds Justice Centre lawyer, Rob Kittredge.
The Courts’ decision as to whether McMaster’s decision should be upheld will be released in the near future. Meanwhile, on March 25, 2022, McMaster University announced that it is suspending its vaccine policy and masking requirements as of May 1, 2022.