Religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandate: Here’s what we know, what we don’t

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With the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline looming, many who haven’t yet received the jab are looking to get their shot, preparing to face the consequences, or seeking exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

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The new policies, set to go into effect in late October, come months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced new proof of vaccination requirements across all federally regulated industries — including a mandate for domestic travelers not exclusive to federal employees. Is.

While some medical exemptions only cover allergies to vaccines, the lines are somewhat blurry when it comes to religious circumstances.


Here’s a look at religious exemptions for vaccinations – who is eligible, how a person can get such exemptions and if it could potentially be used to avoid the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Canada.

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What are the religious exemptions for getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

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A religious exemption for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is the argument that a person’s own religion or belief prevents them from getting the shot.

Exemptions, in this case, may include an outright ban on vaccines, or any form of medical or invasive treatment done to one’s body. In other cases, some religions prohibit the use of certain byproducts such as beef, pork or stem cells in certain medical treatments – although none of these ingredients are proven to be included in any COVID-19 vaccines.

While the federal government and several provincial human rights commissions have promised exemptions will be granted, public health experts, ethicists and even Prime Minister Trudeau have said they will be few and far between.

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In a statement to Granthshala News, the Prime Minister’s Office said there would be only “very limited exceptions” to the vaccine mandate for travelers, in particular, “to address the realities of remote, fly-in communities; emergency travel.” ; and exceptional medical reasons.”

Accommodations, prescribed under Canada’s Human Rights Act, would be built for those who could not get the vaccine, although the prime minister himself promised that having a personal belief that vaccines are bad would not work to get an exemption.

As for federal employees, an earlier statement from the Canadian Treasury Board stated that no federal employee “is based solely on the basis of a proven medical contraindication, religion, or any other prohibited grounds of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act.” Unable to vaccinate, may request accommodation.”

“With regard to accommodation for religion, managers must request an affidavit by the employee before a commissioner to take an affidavit containing detailed information about a faithfully held religious belief that prohibits full vaccination, ” read the statements.

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The Treasury Board, however, outlined strict penalties for false affidavits and said employees who do so could be fired.

The statement continued, “Managers may request additional information and supporting documentation, as may be appropriate.”

With regard to vaccine mandates at the provincial level, some governments have also pushed for religious exemptions.

Quebec recently announced that it would not take religious exemptions for health care workers until October 15. BC, on the other hand, explicitly declared that there would be no exemptions to its vaccine passport system. .

Come October 30, anyone 12 years of age or older wishing to board a plane or train in Canada must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while in core public service such as air travel and railroad workers Those living will need a full vaccination by October 29.

The federal government has warned that anyone who fails to certify that they have been vaccinated could be placed on administrative leave. Those providing false verification could face disciplinary action – including being fired.

And while some federal employees have yet to get vaccinated to get their mandatory jabs, exemptions can be granted in very special cases—mostly under the rationale of medical or religious reasons.

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Which religions can exempt a person from getting vaccinated?

A recent count by Vanderbilt University’s Medical Center showed that out of hundreds of religions, only a few prohibit vaccinations for their adherents.

Any of those religions that form smaller subgroups of the Christian Church, including the Dutch Reformed Church, the Church of the First Born and the Faith Assembly, have a significant following in Canada than the larger, more mainstream denominations or beliefs. Huh.

And while the number of religions in Canada forbidding the vaccine to their followers may seem small, many experts point to this as a possible excuse for those not getting the vaccine.

According to Dr. Nazeem Muhajrin, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, the topic of religious exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines is both interesting and difficult.

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“I think one can come up with any number of excuses for wanting an exception, and there is good reason to invoke religion especially because it is included in the Human Rights Codes and Charter of Rights,” Muhajreen wrote in an email. , and it can also be quite ambiguous.” .

“I will see if any religious/faith leaders have made statements that support the claim of exemption on religious grounds. What religion are we talking about here.”

Muhajreen pointed to the United Arab Emirates as an example, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, but also has a majority Muslim population.

He wrote, “The world is a great place with people of many different religions and beliefs who have been vaccinated.”

In September, the Canadian Council of Imams “strongly recommends” its Muslim followers to…

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