Students who normally attend classes in-person who are unvaccinated or do not wish to disclose their vaccination status will be unable to participate in online courses this fall at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The university instructed students who do not plan to get the vaccine to contact their academic advisors. Students are required to disclose their vaccination status by October 8. 

Under the new rule, those who refuse will face a wide range of consequences, including being unable to go on campus, being de-registered from in-person fall classes, having access to MyLearningSpace suspended for fall term courses and being unable to participate in winter courses.

The only students who are not required to upload their vaccination status are those enrolled in fully online degree programs who do not visit campus. 

The university told CTV News that they crafted this vaccination policy by following the guidance of Ontario’s Chief Medical Health Office of Health, and that “in addition to vaccines, other public health and university health and safety measures such as masking and adhering to gathering limits, will go a long way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 with will allow us to move forward as a community.”

A spokesperson for the Minister of Colleges and Universities told CTV News colleges and universities are “autonomous legal entities fully responsible for both academic and administrative matters” and that “they are responsible for their own compliance and implementation of public health measures.”

The council of Ontario medical officers sent a letter to university presidents on August 24 that outlines vaccination policy standards. It calls for full vaccination of all individuals on campus, with the “rare exception of those individuals who cannot be vaccinated due to permitted exemptions.”

The University of Toronto is also asking in-person students to get vaccinated but makes no mention of a vaccination policy for online students. Similarly, York University plans to ban all unvaccinated students from returning to campus.

Wilfred Laurier University’s announcement comes after Mount Royal University (MRU) axed a vaccine mandate for an online student after facing legal pressure from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).

MRU originally emailed an exclusively online student warning him that even though his classes aren’t on campus, he had one day to upload proof of vaccination or face the risk he “may be deregistered” from classes.

However, after the JCCF threatened the MRU with legal action if the university proceeded with deregistering the student, the MRU backtracked on its decision. 

 “The entirely unnecessary requirement for online students to disclose their vaccination is indicative of the irrational abuse of power public authorities are exercising in the current atmosphere of pandemonium. It is essential that people stand up and push back against these abuses of power,” said JCCF lawyer Mary Moore.

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