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Judge Rejects Student Challenge to Mandatory COVID Shot Policy at Western University

A challenge of Western University’s COVID-19 booster dose mandate by five students has been dismissed in court. Delivered by Ontario Superior Court Justice Kelly Tranquilli, it found the Western officials are within their power to enact the COVID-19 booster mandate and collecting personal health data from students and staff is necessary to administer the policy.

A plain reading of the provincial legislation governing Western shows the university is “expressly and broadly empowered to manage its affairs,” and “may do such things as it considers to be for the good of the university and consistent with the public interest,” the court decision said.

Lisa Bildy, the lawyer for the five students, had argued in court Western wasn’t authorized to collect personal health information on vaccination status from staff and students because the regulation under the Reopening Ontario Act requiring post-secondary institutions to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies has been repealed.

The students contended Western lacked authority to collect the data under Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act and an exception built into the act for personal information that is “necessary to the proper administration of a lawfully authorized activity” does not apply.

Bildy argued Western’s “lawfully authorized activity” was to provide post-secondary education, and that imposing a booster mandate fell outside its core directive.

In her decision, Justice Tranquilli sided with the interpretation of the law given by Western’s lawyers.

“Based upon the broad wording of Western’s enabling statute, and the process that Western followed in promulgating its COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, I am satisfied the university has demonstrated that the policy is a ‘lawfully authorized activity,’” the decision said.

“That the province no longer requires Western to impose a vaccine mandate, or that Western is reportedly the only university in Ontario to impose such a mandate, is of no consequence. Western is expressly permitted to govern its affairs.”

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