Is the vaccine passport a form of discrimination?

A friend of mine is immunocompromised and her doctor told her there’s a risk the vaccine could give her further health complications.

Samantha

Samantha

Nanaimo, BC

There are competing rights in play. Balancing them is very tricky. On the one hand, no one should experience discrimination for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine due to a personal characteristic protected under human rights law (such as a disability or their religion). On the other hand, no one’s safety should be put at risk because of others’ personal choices not to receive a vaccine.

Few, if any, government decisions make everyone happy. Here, the government notes it is striking a balance, curtailing non-essential services for some in the interest of protecting the health and safety of many.

According to BC's human rights commissioner, a person who chooses not to get vaccinated as a matter of personal preference does not have grounds for a human rights complaint. A personal preference could include a strongly held belief that a COVID-19 vaccine, or vaccines generally, do more harm than good. 

BC’s vaccine passport system does not allow for any exceptions, like for medical or religious reasons, except in extremely rare circumstances. In addition, gaining entry to non-essential services requires that you also show ID, which may be difficult for some, such as women fleeing violence, people who are homeless, or undocumented migrant workers. On grounds such as these, the vaccine passport could be considered discriminatory. 

However, Dr. Henry has stressed that the vaccine passport is a temporary measure to get us through a risky period — and that the passport requirement is limited to activities that are non-essential.

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • Reviewed in September 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada

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