The Military Grievances External Review Committee, which reviews grievances referred to it by the chief of defence staff, has found that the Canadian Armed Forces COVID-19 vaccine policy violated its members' Charter rights. A total of 157 grievances were filed with the independent tribunal over the military's vaccination policy, which took effect in the fall of 2021 and remained in place for nearly a year before being updated to apply more narrowly.
The vaccine policy required Canadian Armed Forces members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face release. By the time the requirement ended in October 2021, 299 people had been released and another 108 left on their own. Similar policies had been put in place for the core public administration and employees of the Department of National Defence.
The committee released three annexes in mid-July outlining its analysis to streamline future cases, as dozens of similar grievances are being considered simultaneously. The committee found that the policy infringed on the rights protected under Section 7 of the Charter, which guarantees life, liberty, and security of the person. It concluded that the limitations on these rights were not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and were not justified under Section 1 of the Charter, which allows for reasonable limits on rights and freedoms.
The committee member who wrote the analysis, Nina Frid, stated that while there was justification for a vaccine mandate based on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, the policy arbitrarily distinguished between those who could not get vaccinated and those who chose not to. Frid found the policy to be "overly broad" and its implementation to be "disproportionate."
The committee is recommending that all administrative actions taken against members who refused to get vaccinated be rescinded, and in one case, it is calling for a griever to be allowed to re-enroll in the military. However, the final decisions in these cases rest with Gen. Wayne Eyre, the chief of the defence staff, who is not obligated to follow the committee's recommendations.
The Defence Department emphasized that the process is not yet finished until Eyre's review is complete. It stated that the Canadian Armed Forces make vaccination decisions based on up-to-date medical evidence and advice, as well as the need to be operationally ready. Over 96 percent of Armed Forces members are currently vaccinated against COVID-19.