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Christian Western Students v Western University

Case Description

Liberty Coalition Canada is assisting several Christian students at Western University who have been discriminated against by Western for their religious beliefs regarding the COVID vaccines and the injustice of vaccine mandates.

Western University has continued to impose a COVID vaccine mandate upon its students and even implemented a “booster mandate”, scheduled to take effect January 2023, which will require students to prove they have received three doses of the COVID vaccine in order to go on campus. Western is the only university in Canada to impose such a mandate for a third shot.

Sadly, like most universities in the COVID era, Western seems to prioritize the appearance of a strict adherence to wokeism over adherence to the law or respecting the rights of its students. Repeating the religious discrimination that it and many other universities engaged in last year, Western has denied many requests for human rights accommodation from Christian students regarding COVID vaccine requirements.

Some of these denials involve students who have not received any of the shots, consistent with their sincere Christian beliefs, while some involve students coerced into receiving the first two doses of the COVID vaccines last year, but refuse to violate their consciences further by receiving any more shots.

It is unknown how many Christian Western students have requested accommodation regarding the vaccine mandate on the basis of their religious beliefs and been denied by Western. However, LCC Chief Litigator James Kitchen has reviewed several of the denials and they all take the form of the same, brief, anonymous email which contains no reasons for the denial. This is in utter defiance of Western’s obligation at law to not discriminate against Christian students by providing reasonable accommodation or showing, with facts and reasons, why it cannot provide accommodation.

In late August 2022, Mr. Kitchen secured a reversal of one these exemption denials after issuing a demand letter to Western.

However, after Mr. Kitchen issued two further demand letters on behalf of other Christian students denied accommodation, Western hired law firm Hicks Morley. Through its lawyers, Western refused to reverse these two denials.  The reason? According to Western’s lawyers, these students’ Christian beliefs are not uniquely personal to them because they are shared by other students. Apparently, according to Western, when Christian students share similar Christian beliefs those beliefs are no longer protected by the law.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, some will recall that the most-cited excuse employed by universities for denying accommodation last year was that students’ Christian beliefs were too “personal and singular”, and therefore somehow not protected at law.

These arbitrary refusals to respect the rights of Christian students, and the use of contradictory excuses to support them, reveal the depth of the contempt that Western harbours for its human rights obligation and for students who cannot take the shots due to their Christian beliefs. As has become increasingly clear over the last year, vaccine mandates and refusals to accommodate Christians are about political science, not medical science, and represent a rejection of the rule of law. Unfortunately, in this brave new Canada, legal action and public pressure is required to prevent Christian university students from being treated like second-class citizens because of their beliefs.

Most recently, upon receiving a letter from Mr. Kitchen, Western reversed another initial refusal to accommodate a Christian student, Josh Jacob. Just as no reasons were provided for first denying this student’s exemption, no reasons were provided by Western for changing its mind.

Liberty Coalition Canada is stepping up to help these Christian Western students by providing free legal representation through James Kitchen. LCC asks you to partner with it in helping these students by donating to LCC to cover legal expenses and encouraging others to donate.

"Sometimes your freedom is not taken away at gunpoint but instead, one piece of paper at a time, one seemingly meaningless rule at a time, one small silencing at a time. Never allow the government-or anyone else–to tell you what you can or cannot believe or what you can and cannot say or what your conscience tells you to do or not do."

- Armando Valladares
CUBAN POET

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