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Caution urged on COVID-19 vaccine rules for B.C. employers, landlords

Human rights commissioner concerned about marginalized people
B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender. (B.C. Human Rights Commission photo)

Requiring employees and tenants to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination should be done only if there are no “less intrusive” means of maintaining health and safety, B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner says.

Commissioner Kasari Govender issued guidance Tuesday for “duty bearers” such as employers, service providers and landlords who are considering vaccination status policies. They should be time-limited and take into account evidence of risk, language barriers and disadvantages such as undocumented migrants who may not have a personal health number, Govender advised.

People who have simply declined to be vaccinated should not expect protection against vaccine policies from the B.C. Human Rights Commission, which aims to protect people from unequal access to public services.

“In my view, a person who chooses not to get vaccinated as a matter of personal preference – especially where that choice is based on misinformation or misunderstanding of scientific information – does not have grounds for a human rights complaint against a duty bearer implementing a vaccination status policy,” Govender said in a guidance document released July 13.

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B.C.’s health ministry has stopped short of requiring vaccination, even for staff at senior long-term care homes, where the majority of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in the pandemic. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has announced new public health orders effective July 19 that require care home employers to record the vaccine status for all staff, residents and visitors.

Staff members who are not fully vaccinated, with two shots plus 14 days to build immunity, will be required to continue using masks and submit to rapid COVID-19 testing up to three times a week. Fully vaccinated visitors will be able to visit without appointments, although registering and screening for symptoms is still expected.

The B.C. Human Rights Code protects against “unreasonable discrimination” in employment, services, housing and other areas, including physical or mental disability, place of origin, religion or family status. If an employee or tenant is required to be in close contact with an unvaccinated person at home, Govender says the employer or landlord should attempt to help having that individual vaccinated.


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