Human Rights Commission Issues Statement on Vaccine Mandates

In recent blogs, we’ve talked about the province’s new requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order for persons to access certain high-risk public settings and facilities.  Those requirements came into effect on September 22nd.  The province also plans to implement a “vaccine passport” system whereby a QR (Quick Response) code will allow for faster verification of a person’s vaccination status.  The vaccine passport system is slated to arrive by October 22nd.

In our recent blogs, we also noted that these proof of vaccination requirements likely do not apply to private settings, like gyms and pools and other amenities in condominiums.

However, organizations (like condominium corporations) that are not required to implement proof of vaccination procedures might nevertheless choose to do so (where deemed appropriate for safety reasons).  Condominium corporations may also choose to implement other policies (relating to COVID-19) – for residents and/or employees – including policies or rules respecting wearing of masks and other Personal Protective Equipment, cleaning, procedures for use of amenities, requirements for testing, and even vaccine encouragement. 

In its September 22nd statement, the OHRC doesn’t attempt to comment on the validity of every policy.   But the Commission’s main message is that organizations must comply with the Human Rights Code (the Code).  The OHRC statement includes the following key commentary:

While receiving a COVID-19 vaccine remains voluntary, the OHRC takes the position that mandating and requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work or when receiving services is generally permissible under the Human Rights Code (Code) as long as protections are put in place to make sure people who are unable to be vaccinated for Code-related reasons are reasonably accommodated. This applies to all organizations.

This means that persons who have a medical, or other Code-related reason, not to be vaccinated must be accommodated (unless the accommodation would result in undue hardship). 

At the same time, the OHRC clearly says that “personal preferences” and “singular beliefs” are not considered Code-related reasons (to refuse a vaccine requirement).

When reviewing the OHRC’s statement, we were interested to note the focus on vaccination requirements “at work” and “when receiving services”.  Although those sections of the Code do sometimes apply to activities of a condominium corporation, condominium corporations (particularly when dealing with residents) are more often concerned with Code provisions that apply to “occupancy of accommodation”.

Even so, we believe the same principle applies.  When it comes to use of amenities, condominium corporations must avoid discrimination on a prohibited ground (set out in the Code), subject only to undue hardship. 

The OHRC statement also includes helpful commentary in the following areas:

  • Suggestions about how organizations can comply with the Code,
  • Privacy considerations,
  • Enforcement, and
  • The need for any policies to be updated as circumstances evolve.

In summary, the OHRC statement offers welcome guidance for any organization (including a condominium corporation) that is considering a policy/rule to mandate vaccination or, for that matter, any other sort of policy/rule of the sort noted above.  The main takeaway is the need to avoid discrimination on a prohibited ground.

Stay safe and stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments on vaccine mandates!