Documents detail push, and pushback, on Liberal promise to block unvaccinated from EI
OTTAWA — Internal government documents show that the Liberals’ pledge to prevent unvaccinated people from accessing jobless benefits didn’t eliminate all avenues for them to enter the employment insurance system.
The briefing notes prepared for Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough say that unvaccinated workers could qualify for EI sickness benefits, even if they are sick with COVID-19.
The laws guiding the social safety net program don’t have any explicit rules around eligibility for EI for anyone who refused to get vaccinated.
While Qualtrough was told the government could put rules around regular jobless benefits, officials suggested the same couldn’t be said of sickness benefits.
Documents prepared by Qualtrough’s department last fall suggest officials advised against preventing access to sickness benefits and removing an incentive for ill workers to stay home with symptoms.
The documents show that officials argued against blocking access to the sickness benefit, saying it was “arguably even more” important for the unvaccinated to receive the support so they could isolate after a positive test and not have an incentive to go into work.
The details are contained in documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act that outline some of the moves inside government as officials readied for a wave of layoffs for workers who refused to get vaccinated.
One document developed by Employment and Social Development Canada in the fall noted that workers quitting, being fired or suspended without pay if they opted against getting vaccinated could “bring into question eligibility for income supports” like EI and a suite of recovery benefits.
The government ultimately decided to prevent workers who weren’t vaccinated from receiving EI, though it set some parameters for employers to follow, including having a clear vaccination policy and steps to take prior to termination.
Officials blacked out large portions of the documents because they contain policy and legal advice.
As the records note repeatedly, Service Canada has ultimately been reliant on employers accurately filling out forms to determine whether someone may have an avenue to regular EI benefits.
Qualtrough’s department has yet to respond to questions posed to it earlier this week about the policy, including how many workers have been blocked from accessing EI regular benefits.
The law guiding the EI system does say that a worker can receive benefits if they lose a job through no fault of their own, but not if they decided to quit or were turfed because of misconduct.
Even in cases of misconduct, the EI law specifically says that a worker would still be entitled to the system’s so-called special benefits including sickness, maternity and parental leave.
Officials noted that failure to comply with an employer’s vaccination policy — and the documents suggest this would be the case for federal workers subject the government’s mandate — wouldn’t disentitle someone from sickness benefits.
“The EI Act does not deny access to sickness benefits in circumstances where individuals knowingly expose themselves to risk, so individuals who choose not to be vaccinated would still be able to access EI sickness benefits if they fall ill with COVID-19,” reads one part of a briefing note to Qualtrough.
The briefing note went on to say that the same concept applied to the soon-to-be-defunct Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit that pays out $450 after tax to anyone who has to isolate. That benefit is set to expire on May 7.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2022.
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear unvaccinated woman’s case for organ donation
The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the appeal of an Alberta woman who was unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to get a life-saving organ transplant.
Annette Lewis was diagnosed with a terminal disease in 2018 and was told she would not survive unless she received an organ transplant.
She was placed on a transplant wait list in 2020, but was informed a year later she would need to get the COVID-19 vaccine to receive the organ.
Lewis said taking the vaccine would offend her conscience and argued the requirement violated her Charter rights to life, conscience, liberty and security of the person.
“I ought to have the choice about what goes into my body, and a life-saving treatment cannot be denied to me because I chose not to take an experimental treatment for a condition — COVID-19 — which I do not have and which I may never have,” Lewis said in an affidavit previously submitted to court.
The case was dismissed by an Alberta court, which said the Charter has no application to clinical treatment decisions, in particular for doctors establishing preconditions for organ transplants.
Justice Paul Belzil ruled that standard of care must be the same for all potential recipients or it could result in “medical chaos.”
The Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the decision, prompting Lewis’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“Ms. Lewis is deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court of Canada decided not to hear her case,” Allison Pejovic, Lewis’s lawyer, said in a news release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.
“She had hoped that justice would prevail in the courts for herself and other unvaccinated transplant candidates across Canada.”
Pejovic said Lewis’s constitutional challenge ends with the Supreme Court of Canada’s dismissal but she will continue trying to get the life-saving surgery.
Lewis recently filed a separate legal action against Alberta Health Services, an Alberta hospital and the transplant doctors.
There is a publication ban on the doctors’ identities, the organ involved and the location of the transplant program.
Lewis is arguing negligence in the decision to remove her from the high-priority transplant list, saying it amounts to medical malpractice.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said Lewis will ask the court at an upcoming injunction hearing to grant an immediate reinstatement to the transplant list pending the result of the court action.
WHO’s Global Digital Health Certification Network
From the youtube channel of Dr. John Campbell
With notes from the World Health Organization website, Dr. John Campbell explains the WHO’s Global Digital Health Certification Network. To see the WHO’s press release click here or scroll below the video where it is attached.
Press release from the World Health Organization
The European Commission and WHO launch landmark digital health initiative to strengthen global health security
The World Health Organization (WHO) and European Commission have announced today the launch of a landmark digital health partnership.
In June 2023, WHO will take up the European Union (EU) system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system that will help facilitate global mobility and protect citizens across the world from on-going and future health threats, including pandemics. This is the first building block of the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN) that will develop a wide range of digital products to deliver better health for all.
“Building on the EU’s highly successful digital certification network, WHO aims to offer all WHO Member States access to an open-source digital health tool, which is based on the principles of equity, innovation, transparency and data protection and privacy,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “New digital health products in development aim to help people everywhere receive quality health services quickly and more effectively”.
Based on the EU Global Health Strategy and WHO Global strategy on digital health, the initiative follows the 30 November 2022 agreement between Commissioner Kyriakides and Dr Tedros to enhance strategic cooperation on global health issues. This further bolsters a robust multilateral system with WHO at its core, powered by a strong EU.
“This partnership is an important step for the digital action plan of the EU Global Health Strategy. By using European best practices we contribute to digital health standards and interoperability globally—to the benefit of those most in need. It is also a powerful example of how alignment between the EU and the WHO can deliver better health for all, in the EU and across the world. As the directing and coordinating authority on international health work, there is no better partner than the WHO to advance the work we started at the EU and further develop global digital health solutions,” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.
This partnership will include close collaboration in the development, management and implementation of the WHO GDHCN system, benefitting from the European Commission’s ample technical expertise in the field. A first step is to ensure that the current EU digital certificates continue to function effectively.
“With 80 countries and territories connected to the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate, the EU has set a global standard. The EU certificate has not only been an important tool in our fight against the pandemic, but has also facilitated international travel and tourism. I am pleased that the WHO will build on the privacy-preserving principles and cutting-edge technology of the EU certificate to create a global tool against future pandemics,” added Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market.
A global WHO system building on EU legacy
One of the key elements in the European Union’s work against the COVID-19 pandemic has been digital COVID-19 certificates. To facilitate free movement within its borders, the EU swiftly established interoperable COVID-19 certificates (entitled ‘EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate’ or ‘EU DCC’). Based on open-source technologies and standards it allowed also for the connection of non-EU countries that issue certificates according to EU DCC specifications, becoming the most widely used solution around the world.
From the onset of the pandemic, WHO engaged with all WHO Regions to define overall guidelines for such certificates. To help strengthen global health preparedness in the face of growing health threats, WHO is establishing a global digital health certification network which builds upon the solid foundations of the EU DCC framework, principles and open technologies. With this collaboration, WHO will facilitate this process globally under its own structure with the aim to allow the world to benefit from convergence of digital certificates. This includes standard-setting and validation of digital signatures to prevent fraud. In doing so, WHO will not have access to any underlying personal data, which would continue to be the exclusive domain of governments.
The first building block of the global WHO system becomes operational in June 2023 and aims to be progressively developed in the coming months.
A long-term digital partnership to deliver better health for all
To facilitate the uptake of the EU DCC by WHO and contribute to its operation and further development, WHO and the European Commission have agreed to partner in digital health.
This partnership will work to technically develop the WHO system with a staged approach to cover additional use cases, which may include, for example, the digitisation of the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. Expanding such digital solutions will be essential to deliver better health for citizens across the globe.
This cooperation is based on the shared values and principles of transparency and openness, inclusiveness, accountability, data protection and privacy, security, scalability at a global level, and equity. The WHO and the European Commission will work together to encourage maximum global uptake and participation. Particular attention will be paid to equitable opportunities for the participation by those most in need: low and middle-income countries.
Dr. John Campbell’s Presentation notes:
WHO’s Global Digital Health Certification Network https://www.who.int/initiatives/globa…
WHO has established the Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN). Open-source platform, built on robust & transparent standards, that establishes the first building block of digital public health infrastructure, for developing a wide range of digital products, for strengthening pandemic preparedness
Background Member States used digital COVID-19 test and vaccine certificates As the directing and coordinating authority on international health work, at the onset of the pandemic, WHO engaged with all WHO Regions to define overall guidance for such certificates and published the Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates
https://www.who.int/publications/i/it… https://www.who.int/publications/i/it… there is a recognition of an existing gap, and continued need for a global mechanism, that can support bilateral verification of the provenance of health documents
The GDHCN may include Digitisation of the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, verification of prescriptions across borders
International Patient Summary Verification of vaccination certificates within and across borders Certification of public health professionals (through WHO Academy) Expanding such digital solutions will be essential to deliver better health for people across the globe.
The GDHCN has been designed to be interoperable with other existing regional networks EU-WHO digital partnership https://www.who.int/news/item/05-06-2… • LIVE: WHO and @EU… https://commission.europa.eu/strategy… WHO and the European Commission have agreed to partner in digital health.
This partnership will work to technically develop the WHO system with a staged approach to cover additional use cases, In June 2023, WHO will take up the European Union (EU) system of digital COVID-19 certification to establish a global system, that will help facilitate global mobility
This is the first building block of the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network (GDHCN)
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus WHO aims to offer all WHO Member States access, On the principles of equity, innovation, transparency and data protection and privacy Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
This partnership is an important step for the digital action plan of the EU Global Health Strategy, we contribute to digital health standards and interoperability globally
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market The EU certificate … has also facilitated international travel and tourism I am pleased that the WHO will build on …. cutting-edge technology … to create a global tool against future pandemics
One of the key elements in the European Union’s work against the COVID-19 pandemic has been digital COVID-19 certificates. WHO will facilitate this process globally under its own structure … allow the world to benefit from convergence of digital certificates. Expanding such digital solutions will be essential to deliver better health for citizens across the globe.
The WHO and the European Commission will work together to encourage maximum global uptake and participation.
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