Ontario professor on paid leave after refusing to get a vaccine or wear a mask – .

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Ontario professor on paid leave after refusing to get a vaccine or wear a mask – .


“As Canadians, as rational and autonomous people, my point is that we have the right to decide what goes into our bodies, even if we have the worst reasons for it”

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A philosophy professor at a college affiliated with the University of Western Ontario said she was put on paid leave and was unable to teach students due to her refusal to be vaccinated, which violates the school’s COVID-19 policy.

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Julie Ponesse, a professor in the philosophy department at Huron University College, who has taught ethics for 20 years, opposes mandatory vaccination policies and refuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the high-profile dispute highlights a problem that will likely face many of the estimated 3.7 million people in Canada who are reluctant to be vaccinated or outright refuse to be vaccinated – what may employers demand of employees under these circumstances. , and what might they employees must submit.

Howard Levitt, Toronto employment lawyer with Levitt Sheikh, says exemptions based on religion or medical issues under Ontario’s human rights code are very limited. Collective agreements, in unionized scenarios, may contain a clause on such an issue, Levitt said, but generally speaking, there is little to prevent or reject the imposition of such policies.

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“People have beliefs, personal beliefs and personal ethics about a lot, a lot of things, but if they conflict with the employer’s rules and policies, you have to leave them at the door if you want to work for it. this employer, ”Levitt mentioned.

Huron requires compulsory vaccination on campus, except for people who have received an exemption, either for medical reasons, or for creed or religion. In these cases, people should be tested twice a week.

“There is no testing option for those who choose not to be vaccinated,” read a notice on the Huron website. “Those without proof of vaccination or exemption will not be allowed on campus. “

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On Tuesday, Ponesse emailed her manager to inform him that she would not get vaccinated, upload proof of vaccination, wear a mask while teaching, or submit to tests to prove she is COVID-free.

“It was, I think, half an hour after sending this email that I received an email from my dean stating that I would be fired and put on temporary paid leave,” Ponesse said.

The email, which the National Post saw, tells Ponesse that she “will be placed on temporary paid leave and you will not be allowed to attend campus.” Even if she got an exemption, the email said, she would have to undergo rapid tests and wear a mask, which she refused to do.

Ponesse said she could be eligible for an exemption, but her objection is about the mandate itself and the request for an exemption “agrees to the mandate in a sense.”

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“I want to be very clear in rejecting it in principle, I don’t think we should ever have been in the place where we are looking at the status of the warrants, so I’m not just looking for a one-time exemption, I’m questioning the very foundation of the idea, ”said Ponesse.

However, Ponesse has also made questionable claims about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. In a video posted online, she calls the vaccines “experimental.”

Health authorities in Canada and many other countries have approved the vaccines for emergency use after confirming their safety and effectiveness. Almost three-quarters of Canadians have received a dose of an approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca – and more than 67% are fully immunized. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in August 2021.

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Preliminary studies have found that the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are around 90% effective against COVID-19 and that the vast majority of cases are now among the unvaccinated.

Many universities and businesses across Canada are grappling with some sort of vaccination warrant and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that all employees in the federal public service, and those in federally regulated transportation sectors, must be vaccinated. vaccinate. Provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, have announced a vaccination passport system.

Bruce Anderson, president of Abacus Data, reported this week that of Canada’s adult population of 29.5 million, seven percent (two million) were reluctant to be vaccinated and six percent (1.77 million) were not. wouldn’t take the vaccine, no matter how many there were. hurry.

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My point is that we have the right to decide what goes into our body, even if we have the worst reasons for it.

Drew Davidson, a spokesperson for Huron, wrote in an email that the deadline for proof of vaccination was Tuesday. If people were waiting for a waiver request or a second dose, they had to provide proof of negative rapid antigen tests twice a week, Davidson said.

“While I cannot comment on individual HR matters, I can confirm to you that at this time no one at Huron has been terminated due to this policy,” Davidson wrote.

Ponesse said she has since requested more information on what her position means for her future at Huron and, if so, what the terms of her dismissal might be. She also said she tried to get help from the Huron University College Faculty Association, but said many unions supported vaccination mandates in the first place. (The union did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment before the deadline.)

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In recent months, Ponesse has appeared on right-wing blogs and podcasts, including Maxime Bernier’s YouTube show.

The Canadian COVID Care Alliance, an organization that expresses skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines and public health measures used to fight the pandemic, promoted a video of Ponesse explaining his decision not to to get vaccinated. The group suggests filling up with ivermectin – an antiparasitic drug – if you get COVID, which is not a recommended treatment for the new coronavirus.

Ponesse says she first wrote to the dean to express concerns about the university’s vaccination mandate several weeks ago.

“I am one of the only ethicists, and potentially the only person with a background in medical ethics in my college, and I would have expected my president, who is also a philosopher and then also a member of the administration, to hire you with me, to express some curiosity, to invite more comments from the person who is hired to teach the very subject that we are engaged in right now, ”she said.

While she says she has concerns about the vaccines themselves – which have been extensively tested and studied and approved for use by governments around the world – she also has ethical concerns about the policies that constrain to compliance.

“As Canadians, as rational and autonomous people, my point is that we have the right to decide what goes into our bodies, even if we have the worst reasons for it,” said Ponesse.

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