Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has upheld a decision that denied EI benefits to an Ontario man who lost his job because he did not take the COVID-19 vaccine for religious reasons.
Robin Francis, who was working at a health care centre in Ontario, lost his job in Oct. 2021 because he refused the vaccine. When he applied for Employment Insurance, he was denied benefits, which the court said in a Nov. 2 decision was in line with the Employment Insurance Act, deeming Mr. Francis’s behaviour as “misconduct.”
“The applicant was dismissed by his employer on the ground that he refused to comply with the employer’s mandatory policy to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination,” justices Judith Woods, John Laskin, and Siobhan Monaghan wrote. “The applicant had requested an exemption from the policy based on creed but the employer denied this request.”
“We are satisfied that the applicant’s rights to procedural fairness were not violated,” they said.
Mr. Francis’s lawyer, James Manson, said the decision is concerning. He told The Epoch Times they may take the case to the Supreme Court.
“[This case] was important because it’s talking about the intersection between people’s rights and employment insurance,” he said.
“The precedent apparently is that if an employer—it doesn’t matter about what the policy says. If there is a policy, no matter what, it could be as outrageous a policy as you’d like, but if it’s there, and you know about it, and you don’t follow it, then you won’t get your benefits if you lose your job.”
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) said Mr. Francis is a father of four and was working remotely at his job.
“His employer had not expressed dissatisfaction with his performance, and he was considered a diligent and hardworking employee with an exceptional attendance record,” a JCCF news release said.
On Sept. 3, 2021, Mr. Francis was told by his employer that employees would need to show proof of COVID vaccination or a human rights exemption, it said.
“Dr. Francis applied for a religious exemption, but, on October 5, 2021, his employer summarily denied his request for an exemption,” JCCF said.
He was fired on Oct. 22, 2021.
Mr. Francis applied for EI benefits but was denied, JCCF added, saying he had lost his employment due to “misconduct.” Mr. Francis challenged the decision of the Employment Insurance Commission, but on March 3, 2022, the commission confirmed its decision.
He then appealed to the Social Security Tribunal, which dismissed his appeal on July 26, 2022. Mr. Francis then applied to the Appeal Division, which rejected the appeal on Feb. 17, 2023.
On March 22, he filed with the Federal Court of Appeal to challenge the denial of his EI benefits. The court dismissed the appeal on Nov. 2.