A group of Canadian university professors have banded together and submitted open letters to the presidents of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, urging the administrations to repeal their vaccine mandates.

The letters express “deep concerns with the present COVID-19 vaccination and testing policies at (the) universities.” 

One of the letters, sent Aug. 26, was signed by 32 parents, professors, students and staff, while the other, sent Sept. 1, was signed by three Wilfrid Laurier professors and one professor from the University of Waterloo.

In the latter letter, professors Daniel Smilek, David Haskell, William McNally and Nikolai Kovalec lay out five key with the mandates: discrimination, rights violations, lack of scientific evidence, coercion and informed consent.

The letter alleges that the vaccine mandate “blatantly violates the universities’ commitments to equity, inclusivity and diversity” by dividing the community into two groups, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

The authors claim that certain ethnic and religious groups are less likely to be vaccinated and that the mandate “will systematically discriminate against these already disadvantaged groups.”

As first reported by True North, statistics provided by Health Canada confirm that black and Indigenous Canadians experience the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy in Canada.

The authors also cite the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees a “right to security of the person.” 

“Up until now, this activity that our universities are engaged in was against the law. Canada’s own Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, just a few months ago made it clear that the Privacy Act ensures citizens cannot be compelled to disclose personal medical information to access public services. This is another example of Canadians’ rights being incrementally removed. We must stand against it,” said Haskell, a Laurier professor and signatory to the letter.

McNally, a finance professor at Laurier, believes the vaccine mandates set a dangerous precedent.

“I’m fully vaccinated myself, but this is no longer just about public health when a government or institution forces people to publicly provide proof of social conformity,” he said. “What’s the next idea you’ll be asked to conform to on pain of exclusion? This is a very dangerous precedent and it’s completely removed from the path of liberal democracy.”

Smilek, a Waterloo professor, said the mandates are not rooted in science, noting that because vaccinated people can still transmit COVID-19, limiting testing to one group amounts to “discriminating.”

In a statement to True North, the University of Waterloo said it respects the right of its faculty members to express an opinion, but cautioned against statements that “misrepresent.”

“The academic freedom of our community members to express their views is essential to the scholarly mission of the University. Academic freedom comes with responsibilities to base research on an honest search for truth, to meet ethical and professional standards, and to not misrepresent expertise,” said a university spokesperson.

The university said its approach is based on direction from the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health, supported by Ontario’s chief medical officer.

At present, just a week after launching the proof system for the entire community, more than 22,000 university members have supplied proof of vaccination; 97% of that number are fully vaccinated.

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