COVID-19

Superior Court Decision | Quebec can impose mandatory health vaccination

Quebec may legally impose mandatory vaccination in the health network if it wishes, the Superior Court ruled on Monday, in a ruling that comes, however, two weeks after the Legault government has already backed down on this matter.

Henri Ouellette-Vézina

Henri Ouellette-Vézina
Press

“The plaintiffs have not been able to demonstrate that the decree, whether or not we agree with the value of the solution it advocates, was not taken in their own face to protect the health of the population in a context of health emergency. […] Therefore, it is necessary, at this stage, to allow the decree to enter into force ”, explains Judge Michel Yergeau in a decision that was made public on Monday at the beginning of the day, thus rejecting the request for suspension requested.

Recall that the initial hearing took place on October 27, just days before Health Minister Christian Dubé announced his decision to abandon the mandatory vaccination of health workers, saying that he could not do without unvaccinated caregivers.

In this case, the government was being sued by more than a hundred health workers, including doctors, who oppose the imposition of mandatory vaccination. At the time the procedures began, as of October 26, 18,462 health workers were still not properly vaccinated, including 13,331 who had not received any doses, according to official figures.

The group’s lawyer, Yo Natalia Manole, had alleged that removing “20,000” people from the health system would lead to a “catastrophic situation” due to service interruptions. “It will cause death, suffering, canceled or postponed surgeries, canceled or postponed appointments with specialists. This will lead to the closure of beds in the CHSLD ”, he had listed.

The executive branch and the administration may have chosen the wrong means to protect public health. But it is not for the Court to substitute its opinion for that of the government on these questions of timing, it is for the voters to judge.

Michel Yergeau, Superior Court judge, in his judgment

What impacts?

If the decision remains symbolic for the moment, given the government’s turnaround, however, it could prove crucial if Quebec decides to reverse its position again, by opting to impose vaccination on the health network. Judge Yergeau’s decision could then serve as jurisprudence, overriding other possible legal challenges.

In the office of the Minister of Health, they say “take note” of this decision of the Superior Court. “For our part, we continue with the mandatory screening of unvaccinated employees at least three times a week, outside of their working hours. If recalcitrant employees refuse to be tested, they will be suspended without pay. It is not negotiable, ”the press secretary, Amélie Paquet, hammered on Monday.

This periodic screening is a measure that is already in force from the first postponement of the mandatory vaccination period, on October 15. The government will pay all the costs required for the assessment, but the employee will still have to do it on their own time. Health facilities are encouraged to reassign unvaccinated staff to locations where clients are less vulnerable.

” Does not apply ”

The professor of the Montreal School of Public Health (ESPUM) Roxane Borgès Da Silva recalled this Monday that “although the government has all the legitimacy to apply this decree, the reality is that we have such a rate of absenteeism in the health network that this measure is not applicable ”.

“It remains very disappointing to learn that these unvaccinated workers are not aware of their vocation prevention, which is not putting patients at risk either. This is their main role, ”he says, recalling that several other countries, in Europe in particular, have managed to impose mandatory vaccination. “In Quebec, the absenteeism rate is not the same in all regions, but it is true that the pandemic has increased it,” he admits.

For the professor of medicine and director of the Molecular Oncology Research Unit of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute, André Veillette, the trial shows that the approach was nonetheless “legitimate.” “It also raises interesting questions about whether it could be extrapolated to other circles, such as governments or education. I believe that all employers should take whatever means they can to increase the proportion of people vaccinated, ”he said.

With Fanny Lévesque and Louis-Samuel Perron

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