As universities across Ontario roll out mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies, Wilfrid Laurier professor William McNally says he found it upsetting to have to reveal his medical information but felt complying with this violation of his privacy was the only way he could keep his job.
“So I made the choice to reveal that information. I feel sick to my stomach about it, but I didn’t see how I can complete my job without it. And if I don’t teach the classes, then the university has grounds to fire me,” McNally told The Epoch Times.
In a recent joint letter, McNally and four other professors called on the presidents of Wilfrid Laurier and the University of Waterloo to repeal their COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandates. The professors raised concerns about several aspects of both universities’ policy, including discrimination against those who choose not to be vaccinated and the violation of charter rights.
“The current COVID-19 vaccination and testing policy blatantly violates our universities’ commitments to equity, inclusivity, and diversity,” the letter states.
“The policy explicitly divides our university communities into two groups, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and then adds to the latter group a requirement to seek an exemption and to regularly undergo onerous biological testing.”
The professors called for the policy to be “repealed immediately and that it be replaced with a policy whereby students, staff, and faculty have freedom of choice regarding vaccination and testing.”
McNally, a professor of finance at Wilfrid Laurier since 1999, said he had to either apply for a vaccine passport or be subjected to an “invasive PCR swab test up the nose” twice a week.
“I’m not an anti–vaxxer. I just can’t believe that in Canada, we’re stepping over this line of coercing or compelling people to undergo a medical procedure against their wishes,” he said. “We used to believe in informed consent, that individuals would make their own health-care decisions based on their own calculations and their own information.”
Wilfred Laurier’s vaccination policy requires students and staff to be fully vaccinated to access its campuses. It has also developed its own vaccine passport in the form of a phone app called SAFEHawk.
A Wilfrid Laurier spokesperson said in an email that the university is required by the provincial government to “establish, implement, and ensure compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy that requires our employees, staff, contractors, volunteers, and students who attend our campuses to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or written proof of a qualifying exemption.”
The university’s website says those who are “unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” can request an exemption and will still have to undergo regular testing.
David Haskell, an associate professor of liberal arts at Wilfrid Laurier who also signed the joint letter, says he is not opposed to the COVID-19 vaccines but that standing against mandatory vaccination “is about fundamental human rights.”
“Up until now, this activity that our universities are engaged in was against the law,” Haskell told The Epoch Times.
“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.”
A separate open letter to the University of Waterloo signed by a large group of faculty, staff, parents, and students, including alumni, also calls on UW to withdraw the vaccination and testing mandates.
“People may object to vaccination for various reasons, including medical, religious, and philosophical ones. Whichever the case may be—the choice to get vaccinated remains a personal one, as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the letter states, noting that the mandates are unlawful.
Asked by The Epoch Times for comment, the University of Waterloo provided its responses to the two open letters.
“The academic freedom of our community members to express their views is essential to the scholarly mission of the University. However, academic freedom comes with responsibilities,” UW said, referring to its website guidelines which require scholars to use academic freedom in ways that “meet ethical and professional standards.”
“Ensuring high rates of vaccination remains the most important way we can protect public health during the pandemic and reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Some in the academic community fear being fired if they refuse vaccination.
Julie Ponesse, an ethics professor at Huron University College, an affiliate of Western University, said in a Sept. 8 video that she was facing “imminent dismissal after 20 years on the job” for refusing vaccination.
“My school employs me to be an authority on ethics, and I’m here to tell you it’s ethically wrong to coerce someone to take a vaccine,” Ponesse says in the video.
As far as McNally is concerned, compelling people to undergo a medical procedure or take medicine against their will “is an extraordinary violation of their charter rights, of their right to personal safety, of their rights to their property, rights to their own body.”
He also notes that the tendency to conflate anti-mandates with anti-vaccination is widespread and is leading to division in Canadian society.
“People kind of conflate this in their mind. As soon as you talk about opposing mandatory vaccination, they think you’re against vaccination totally,” he said, adding that most of the blame for this kind of thinking lies with how the media are covering the issue.
“A lot of the media is is on board with this. They’re trying to cast that anyone who’s against the mandate is just a bad person, with bad intentions, and they’re stupid because they’re against vaccines as well, so you can kind of paint them as evil, as stupid,” he said.
“I don’t know why we have to do that. Why can’t we approach these issues with a little more nuance on a topic-by-topic basis?”