Do the ends justify the means? Until now Canadian courts have said yes in nearly every constitutional challenge against pandemic-era mandates. Now, thanks to some veterans, that may soon change.
Christine Christensen, an Edmonton-area lawyer, has filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The plaintiffs are roughly 330 veterans seeking $500 million in compensation.
So far, most legal actions against the government have failed. A lonely exception came on March 18, 2021 when BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinckson struck down the public health orders against public protests. Yet, even Hinckson maintained the ban on in-person religious gatherings, while shoppers filled big box stores.
What makes the veterans’ suit different is that a tribunal has already ruled emphatically in their favour.
“I conclude that the limitation of the grievors’ right to liberty and security of the person by the CAF vaccination policy is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice because the policy, in some aspects, is arbitrary, overly broad and disproportionate,” wrote Nina Frid of the Military Grievances External Review Committee on May 30.
Rights can be overruled for reasons demonstrably justified to a democratic society, section 1 of the Charter tells us. This criteria has been dubiously applied in the pandemic era, but conclusions like Frid’s make that exception even harder to back up. That’s why Christensen launched the lawsuit June 21.
“The CAF shirked its own purpose and rushed an untested product onto its members, mislabelled this experimental gene therapy a ‘vaccine,’ knowingly made false statements of safety and efficacy, and facilitated its mandate with no option to refuse except for mandatory permanent removal from service,” reads the statement of claim filed with the Federal Court.
“The actions…resulted in injury to the Plaintiffs, who have consistently worked to prevent this abuse of power from occurring and to protect the members and their families who are experiencing coercion, discrimination, and threat of loss of career and benefits in all instances.”
The lawsuit was filed against Minister of National Defence Anita Anand, former deputy minister of national defence Jody Thomas, Chief of the Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Lieutenant-General Frances Allen, and others.
If the vaccine were a demonstrably safe, patiently proven prevention for a deadly pathogen, one might take a more sympathetic view of these leaders. However, as Christensen told the National Citizens’ Inquiry on COVID-19, the military had no recorded deaths from COVID-19 when the mandate was introduced in the Fall of 2021.
Those unwilling to be jabbed left voluntarily or were dishonourably discharged as “unsuitable for further service.” By October 2022, the vaccine was no longer a condition of service, but made mandatory for numerous operational roles alongside other vaccinations.
The lawsuit alleges abuse of power; torment of unvaccinated members; and ignorance of privacy, medical rights, and established law on informed consent and religious beliefs. Christensen said the mandate owed itself to “political agendas and taking direction from political leaders that is detrimental to operational readiness and effectiveness.”
Canadian veterans are supposed to contend for national interests with the backing of their leadership. It’s a dark day indeed when they must fight for their constitutional rights against those same people. This author hopes they win.
Lee Harding is a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy