Guest post by Emmett Macfarlane, Department of Political Science
University administrators are apparently struggling with whether to impose vaccine mandates for all students, faculty, and staff who want to be on campus this fall. A vaccine mandate of this sort is the most effective means by which to protect the campus community, limit the spread of COVID, and protect those who, for medical reasons or age limitations, cannot be vaccinated (especially the children of students, faculty, and staff who are exposed if COVID is brought home to them).
One of the most common objections to vaccine mandates is that such a policy will infringe the rights of those people who have thus far refused to get vaccinated. Both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial human rights laws, like the Human Rights Code of Ontario, are cited as preventing universities from implementing vaccine mandates.
This argument holds little water.
It is true that the broad liberty interests of unvaccinated individuals are affected by limiting where they can go, by instituting employment requirements, and by having their privacy intruded on by being required to disclose their vaccination status. Yet we already place limitations like this in many circumstances. Ontario schoolchildren have, for many years, been required to provide proof of vaccination to attend school. Smokers are not allowed to smoke in indoor public spaces, because we recognize the dangers of second-hand smoke.
In short, one person’s liberty interests end where the rights of others begin. We cannot allow people to invoke rights in the name of behaviour that produces incontrovertible harm to others.Continue reading “No, a vaccine mandate does not violate rights”