ARCH Bulletin: Understanding Ontario’s Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements
As of September 22, 2021, the Ontario Government has put in place a Proof of Vaccination rule for some establishments. This bulletin provides more information about the rule and what it means for persons who cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine because of a disability-related reason.
Ontario’s human rights law says that persons who cannot get a COVID-19 vaccine because of disability-related reasons have a right to be exempt from vaccination requirements.
Ontario Regulation 645/21 creates the rule that some businesses and establishments are required to obtain from patrons proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (section 2.1).
Subsection 2.1(6)(c) of the regulation sets out the exemptions to this rule. It states that a person is exempt where they can provide a letter from a physician or a registered nurse in the extended class that explains the person has a documented medical reason for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the time period for the medical reason.
According to its website, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has taken an extremely narrow interpretation of what qualifies as a valid medical exemption:
- a severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components, confirmed by an allergist/immunologist, that cannot be mitigated; or
- a diagnosed episode of myocarditis/pericarditis after receipt of an mRNA vaccine.
It has been reported that many establishments are also putting in place vaccination policies that are extremely narrow, or they are refusing service to persons who cannot be vaccinated, even if the reason is because of their disability.
These practices are problematic and troubling because they are discriminatory towards persons who cannot be vaccinated for disability-related reasons. Human rights protections under Ontario’s Human Rights Code continue to fully apply during a pandemic. Service providers are bound by the duty to accommodate, which require them to provide services that meet the individual disability-related needs of their patrons. Exempting persons who cannot received the vaccine because of their disability is a reasonable accommodation within the meaning of the Code.
Read ARCH’s public letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario raising concerns about their interpretation of the proof of vaccination rules.
For more information, read the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy statement on COVID-19 vaccine mandates and proof of vaccine certificates and Questions and Answers about COVID-19 and the Human Rights Code .
Persons with disabilities who live in Ontario can call ARCH for free, confidential legal information and summary advice. To find out about the kind of legal advice ARCH provides and how to book an appointment, please use the following link: ARCH Services
* Information provided in these materials is not intended to be legal advice. Consult a lawyer or legal worker if you need legal advice on a specific matter. This information is current as of October 6, 2021