By Andrew Chen April 2, 2022
The University of Toronto is revoking its COVID-19 vaccine mandate and other related policies after a human rights complaint was filed against the school.
Effective May 1, the following measures will be paused: the requirement to complete a health screening prior to entering university premises, the requirement to be fully vaccinated for in-person activities on university premises, and the requirement to be masked in indoor spaces unless otherwise required, the university said this week on its website.
The university noted that some or all of these measures could be reinstated on short notice in future “should public health conditions or guidance change.”
The halting of the requirements comes less than a month after a group of staff, students, and faculty filed a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario Group Application. On Feb. 16, the group wrote to U of T president Meric Slover Gertler warning that those affected by the school’s vaccine mandate—many of whom were placed on a 12-month unpaid leave—would be filing the complaint.
However, the university “announced that it will continue to require proof of vaccination for those attending our campuses until at least the end of the academic term,” the group said in a news release on March 21.
The release noted that since Ontario has dropped its vaccine mandate, the university should follow the decision of the province and the chief medical officer of health and no longer insist on mandates or withhold pay from those still on leave.
“The University of Toronto is going against public health recommendations even though they relied on them to enforce overly restrictive mandates on students, staff, and faculty,” it states.
The Ontario government lifted the proof of vaccination requirement on March 1 while ending mandatory masking in most public spaces on March 21. All remaining COVID-19 measures, directives, and orders are set to terminate on April 27.
In its Feb. 16 letter, the group said the university failed to accommodate members of the community who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated by using an “overly narrow” definition and guideline for COVID-19 vaccination. It also said the university “concealed that there are grounds for accommodations, and characterizes the University-approved exemptions as all-encompassing.”
“The University’s approach violates the human rights of members of the University of Toronto community and must be immediately removed,” the group said.
The University of Toronto is not the only institution in Ontario that faces accusations of rights violations in relation to its health policies.
On March 23, University of Guelph virologist Dr. Byram Bridle published a letter written to university president Charlotte Yates by a former colleague who was placed on unpaid leave due to the school’s vaccination policy.
The colleague, who worked as a manager with the university’s Lang School of Business, said she and her husband ended up losing their home.
“We lost our home because of UofG’s vaccination policy,” she wrote.
“I’m disheartened by the lack of acknowledgement of the damages these policies have done to students and staff. UofG is now letting non vaccinated people back to work/study however there is no acknowledgement that these policies were damaging. I lost a beautiful home because of them,” wrote the former employee, who signed the letter with the initials “K.E.”
“I was distraught and depressed with the situation that was happening and I felt like no one cared and still do,” she added.
“The policy ruined lives. It uprooted lives. It delayed life plans. It’s not a small ordeal. It also forced other people into making medical choices they did not want to make just to keep themselves and/or children fed.”