Vaccine card mandate a step too far for some Kamloops, Okanagan businesses | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vaccine card mandate a step too far for some Kamloops, Okanagan businesses

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
August 26, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Vaccine cards will soon be required to access certain services or attend certain events in B.C., but some Okanagan business owners are planning to openly defy that mandate and opt not to ask their customers to prove their vaccine status.

The last year-and-a-half has been a "roller coaster" for David Scarlatescu, owner of The Fig in Vernon, and an order from the provincial government that says he must now verify vaccine status of each customer is a step too far.

"I'm frustrated, flabbergasted, surprised," Scarlatescu said. "The (public health officer) and premier said they'd never do this because they don't want to put stress on businesses."

So he's one of many Okanagan business owners planning to defy the provincial order at The Fig because he believes the right for individuals to choose whether they should be vaccinated overrides his ability to verify his customers' medical decisions.

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccination card coming to attend events, restaurants in B.C.

On Sept. 13, proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccine will be required to attend restaurants, both on patios or indoors. The rule will also apply to indoor sporting events, night clubs, casinos and theatres, to name a few. The measures come into place as the province faces another rise in COVID-19 cases, especially among unvaccinated adults.

By Oct. 14, the attendees will have to provide proof of a second vaccine dose.

"This is not an anti-vax issue in anyway," Scarlatescu said. "It's moving of the goal posts. In addition, it's the expectation for the small businesses... to now force this on our customers. (Customers) are the ones that kept us in business this entire time."

While the provincial mandate may place pressure on B.C. businesses, the infringement on Charter rights is far from a government overstep, according to one B.C. lawyer.

The new policies may limit the ability for some to attend events and services, but they are a "massive leap" from mandatory vaccinations, according to Vancouver-based criminal defense lawyer, Kyla Lee.

Lee sympathizes for business owners who are now placed with the pressure of following through with the provincial mandates. However, under Canadian law, government is allowed to violate certain Charter rights as long as it is in the public interest, she said.

"Government struck that appropriate balance to limiting access to some things while not limiting access to essential services and, in my opinion, that's constitutionally valid," she said. "I don't see there being many legal implications as far as it violating the Charter."

READ MORE: High COVID case counts continue in Interior Health with 252 new infections

None of the services or events that will include the new restrictions are things that Canadians have a legally protected right to participate in, she said, adding that people in B.C. can still access their doctors, dentists, education and grocery stores without vaccine restrictions.

She compared the new limitations to holding a driver's licence, which is more of a privilege.

"You don't have bodily integrity to the same extent when walking as when you're driving a car. If police ask for a breath test, you are obligated to provide it," she said, adding that requesting a breath test must be reasonable in the given circumstances.

"We all accept these limitations because drunk driving kills people."

She also compared it to air travel, where travellers accept a certain infringement on their right to privacy in the interest of safety.

"Going through the airport, if you want to get on a plane, even if it's domestic... you still have to go through security and use that body scanner. They'll scan your bags, essentially performing a search," Lee said.

"It's really an issue of the few versus the many," she said. "Just because you can make a choice, doesn't mean you can make that decision without consequences."

While the details of what punishments could be in store for businesses refusing to verify vaccine proof are yet to be released, Lee expects to see fines levied, adding that those who are outspoken about their refusal to abide by the order will likely make enforcement easier.

Kamloops-based restaurant owner Mitchell Forgie, however, said he plans to follow the orders, even if it's not the decision he would like.

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"I feel sad for our poor 18-year-old hostess that will have to check for vaccine proof," Forgie, co-owner of Red Beard Cafe and Bright Eye Brewing, said. "I don't feel strongly about it either way. I just think this is uncharted territory."

While checking for vaccine proof could be an alternative to closing indoor dining altogether, Forgie said he would not be surprised if indoor dining was closed by Sept. 13 anyway.

B.C.'s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner addressed the implications of asking for vaccine proof for certain services with a publicly accessible policy guidance booklet, published July, 2021.

Separately, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has made several specific rulings on masks, COVID-19-related public health orders and their implications on civil liberties.

READ MORE: Anti-masker loses case at B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

READ MORE: B.C. man fired for refusing to wear a mask loses Human Rights case

According to the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, any vaccination status policies should be justified by scientific evidence, time-limited and regularly reviewed, while necessary due to a lack of "less-intrusive alternatives."

"In applying such a vaccination status policy, duty bearers must accommodate those who cannot receive a vaccine to the point of undue hardship," the policy guide reads, adding that, "No one’s safety should be put at risk because of others’ personal choices not to receive a vaccine. Just as importantly, no one should experience harassment or unjustifiable discrimination when there are effective alternatives to vaccination status policies."

— This story was corrected at 2:17 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, 2021 to clarify B.C.'s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal are separate bodies. The two bodies appeared to be one in the same in a previous version of this story. The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner makes recommendations to prevent discrimination before it happens, while the Human Rights Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body that makes rulings on human rights violations in B.C.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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