Calgary firefighters sue city over COVID-19 vaccine policy, claiming ‘discrimination based on medical status’

In October 2021, the city of Calgary instituted a COVID-19 vaccine policy for public employees, requiring them to either be fully vaccinates or undergo routine testing. Those who refused were told they’d be placed on unpaid leave.

Nine months later, a group of firefighters has filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging the requirements caused damage and violated their Charter rights.

As Global News reports, nineteen firefighters are plaintiffs in the $38 million lawsuit, filed July 7.

The group alleges they “have suffered measurable damages, including mental distress, anxiety, and, in particular, injury to dignity and self-respect,” according to their statement of claim.

“The Plaintiffs are therefore entitled to significant damages,” the statement continues, “due to the manner in which the City suspended their employment, including a claim for punitive aggravated damages arising from flagrant human rights and Charter violations.”

They claim the vaccine policy created a “hostile and toxic work environment,” since employees were forced to “either attest or be put on unpaid leave of absence under the threat of discipline or termination.” The lawsuit argues the actions of the city to amounted to “discrimination based on medical status.”

Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms lawyer Allison Pejovic said the lawsuit is “definitely worth bringing and worth getting a precedent on, win or lose,” arguing that “Canadians need to know where the courts stand” on “whether this is the new way forward, that you need to be subject to a drug treatment, medical treatment, in order to go about your basic life.”

The policy was in effect between October 21, 2021 and March 7, 2022, during which time some argue they “lost their sole or primary source of income.”

According to Global News, by March 98 percent of city employees complied with the policy, with 95 percent attesting that they had received both doses of the vaccine.

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