Lawyers are not allowed to ask potential jurors if they have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, a British Columbia Supreme Court judge has ruled.
Blacklock’s Reporter says the significant ruling comes as the Trudeau government is considering whether or not to makes vaccines mandatory for public service workers.
Justice Geoffrey Gomery, overseeing a criminal trial in Powell River, B.C., dismissed a request from Crown prosecutors to ask jury members if they’d received their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Gomery refused, calling it “private and personal.”
“Panelists might well have reasons to wish not to discuss their vaccination status in public in the intimidating environment of a courtroom,” wrote Gomery.
“Some might be intimidated by the question itself.”
Gomery noted from the outset of the pandemic, courts have taken precautions including social distancing, installation of plastic dividers and have resorted to teleconferences for routine hearings.
“Until quite recently it could be assumed most jurors were unvaccinated,” said Gomery, adding he was unaware of a single COVID-19 outbreak “that has been traced to the conduct of a criminal or civil trial.
“The risk to jurors, if some of them are unvaccinated, is very low. If panelists had expressed concerns about COVID exposure I would have excused them in any event.”
No federal agency to date has made vaccination mandatory but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on August 5 he would seek a review on whether to force 1.2 million federally regulated employees to show proof of vaccination.
Conservative MP David Yurdiga (Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, Alta.) on Tuesday called compulsory vaccination dangerous over-reach.
“Mandating the vaccine as a requirement to work would be the beginning of a slippery slope,” Yurdiga said in a statement.
“It is our job to stand up against this tyrannical idea that forces discrimination based on what Canadians choose to do with their bodies.”
The MP called it “severe government overreach.”
Mandating disclosure of personal medical information to access public services is a breach of the federal Privacy Act, according to a May 19 statement by Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien.
“It’s an encroachment on civil liberties,” said Therrien.
The Library of Parliament in an August 3 report to legislators said compulsory shots posed “challenges related to privacy, security and access,” and reflected a level of government surveillance that “diminishes the level of freedom one expects in a democracy.”
More than six million Canadians eligible for COVID-19 shots have declined to date.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his Ontario counterpart, Doug Ford, have said they will not bring in vaccine passports into their provinces.
On Tuesday, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said it will lobby Kenney to launch a passport so business owners could protect themselves.