The board ruled that Dr. Theresa Szezepaniak had the right to deny the experimental vaccine but is not immune ‘from the consequences of her decision.’
A British Columbia doctor has lost an appeal to keep working after being suspended for not receiving the experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
On November 20, the British Columbia Hospital Appeal Board ruled that Dr. Theresa Szezepaniak’s hospital privileges must remain suspended as she refuses the COVID vaccine mandated by the province to work in health care settings.
“This Panel acknowledges that the Appellant has the right to make decisions impacting her bodily integrity and accepts that she strongly and sincerely believes in her views,” the decision said. “That does not mean, however, that she is immune from the consequences of her decision.”
“Hospital privileges” is a health care term referring to authority which a hospital gives to a doctor or nurse to treat patients at that hospital.
According to the ruling, Szezepaniak will remain suspended “until such time as the Appellant is eligible to fulfill her service obligations,” meaning until she receives the COVID vaccine, or the province lifts the mandate.
The ruling further states that Szezepaniak’s privileges should be canceled if she is not eligible to work by the time of her annual review.
In March 2020, Szezepaniak, a doctor in the province for over 20 years, took a position at the Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) in Kelowna.
On October 25, 2021, the health orders mandated that staff members receive the COVID vaccine to work in healthcare settings “unless they had received a COVID-19 vaccine or had been granted an exemption from the PHO.”
As a result, Szezepaniak was unable to work at RIH as of October 26 and filed for an exemption from the shot based on the argument that it violated her rights and freedoms. She supported her appeal with “numerous requests for information related to disclosure of scientific evidence regarding the vaccines and how Charter requirements were being met.”
Despite her evidence, Szezepaniak’s exemption was denied, and she was terminated from her position by the Interior Health Authority on November 19, 2021.
On Aug. 23, 2022, the decision was made official by the health authority board of directors who canceled her “medical staff appointment and hospital privileges, effective Aug. 19.”
Szezepaniak also warned the hospital that mandatory vaccination policies “were illegal” and that anyone who participated in enforcing the mandates “would be personally liable for all of the harms caused by the policies.”
On October 18, 2022, Szezepaniak filed an appeal of the Board of Directors’ decision; however, her appeal has now been denied
Despite the ruling, Szezepaniak has not given up on her fight and is reviewing the decision with her lawyer, Lee Turner.
“I expect our client will be making a decision shortly on whether she will pursue a judicial review of the decision,” Turner told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Szezepaniak is hardly alone in her fight against the vaccine mandates. In November, hundreds of British Columbia health care workers joined together to sue Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry for ongoing COVID shot mandates preventing them from working.
British Columbia is one of few provinces to maintain COVID jab mandates, despite a shortage of health care workers.
Nova Scotia judge sues chief judge, provincial court over Covid vaccine status and judicial independence
News release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is providing for the legal representation of Judge Rickcola Brinton of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia in a lawsuit against The Honorable Pamela S. Williams, former Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, among others. Brinton was threatened by Williams with suspension and referral to the provincial Judicial Council after she chose not to disclose her Covid vaccination status in late 2021. She filed her claim in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on September 29, 2023, seeking damages for the intentional violation of her judicial independence and medical privacy.
On September 29, 2021, Brinton received an email (sent to all judges of the Nova Scotia Provincial Court) from Judge Williams, then Chief Judge, asking if they would agree to share their vaccination status with each other. Chief Judge Williams also asked whether the Court should share that information with the Nova Scotia Bar.
On October 1, 2021, Brinton replied, “I realize I may be in the minority…as I have concerns with medical privacy,” she wrote. “I also know that the vaccination mandates and passports may be disproportionately impacting racialized communities. And as an essential service, will we be creating a two-tiered society for those who already feel as though we are not all free to serve them?” She thus declined to disclose her vaccination status.
In an effort to persuade her, Chief Judge Williams met with Brinton on October 7, 2021. Brinton explained that her decision not to disclose her vaccination status was a matter of conscience and the result of prayerful contemplation. She offered to get tested for Covid as often as needed, but Chief Judge Williams rejected Brinton’s proposal.
At the end of October, Brinton went on short-term disability leave. She submitted the required Proof of Illness form completed by her doctor.
On November 1, 2021, Chief Judge Williams sent out an email to all judges stating that “only fully vaccinated judges will be assigned to sit in our courtrooms.” Four days later, on November 25, 2021, she issued a public statement announcing that “[a]ll Provincial Court judges presiding in courtrooms, both now and in the future, are fully vaccinated.”
A few months later, on February 22, 2022, Chief Judge Williams wrote to Brinton stating that she would not approve the continuation of the short-term leave unless Brinton provided evidence of her disability. She also wrote that if Brinton continued to refuse to disclose her vaccination status, she would be “considered non-vaccinated and unable to preside over in-person trial and sentencings in the Court Room,” and that she would have “no recourse other than to suspend [Brinton] and refer the matter to the Judicial Council.”
Then, on March 27, 2022, without warning or Brinton’s consent, Chief Judge Williams wrote to Brinton’s doctor requesting that he supply her with details of Brinton’s medical issues. The doctor called Brinton to ask if she consented to this disclosure of medical information. She did not consent. The Chief Judge’s office followed up by calling the doctor’s office to once again ask for disclosure consent. Again, Brinton declined. Meanwhile, Brinton had provided necessary information to her disability benefits provider and had been approved for long-term disability.
Brinton has not received any communication from Chief Judge Williams since April 2022. Williams’ term as Chief Judge ended in August 2023. She continues to sit on the bench.
Judicial independence is a crucial and ancient constitutional principle, predating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Brinton raised concerns about interference with medical privacy and the impact of disclosing her Covid vaccination status on the independence and impartiality of both herself and the Court, particularly with respect to cases where courts have been asked to rule on issues regarding Covid vaccines; for example, whether an employee who is terminated for not taking the Covid vaccine is eligible for EI benefits, or whether it was legal for post-secondary institutions to force students out of their programof study for not taking the vaccine. As a result of raising such concerns, Brinton was threatened with suspension and disciplinary action.
Brinton’s lawsuit names the Honourable Pamela S. Williams, the Office of the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia, and the Attorney General of Nova Scotia representing His Majesty the King in Right of the Province of Nova Scotia, as defendants.
Nova Scotia drops COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers amid ongoing staffing crisis
The Nova Scotia Health Authority is allowing unvaccinated staff to return to work when the new policy takes effect on February 26 after more than two years of being on unpaid leave.
Nova Scotia has dropped its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers amid an ongoing staff crisis.
On February 21, the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced that it will no longer require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers and is encouraging staff members who were suspended because of the mandate to return to work.
“By removing the mandatory vaccination requirement, both organizations aim to offer flexibility and support to employees, onsite medical staff, and preferred candidates,” read a joint statement from Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health.
“Staff members who chose not to receive vaccines or submit proof of immunization, when the policy was implemented, may have the opportunity to return to active employment,” the statement promised.
Under the new policy set to take effect February 26, staff members “who chose not to receive vaccines or submit proof of immunization will be eligible to apply for onsite medical privileges with Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health, provided they meet all other necessary job requirements.”
Starting in November 2021, Nova Scotia mandated the experimental vaccine for healthcare workers. Those who refused the shot were placed on unpaid leave.
According to a letter sent to The Canadian Independent, the province is telling unvaccinated healthcare workers to return to work when the new policy takes effect.
The email informed them that it is “imperative” to reach out to their manager to “confirm your intention to return to work or resign employment with Nova Scotia Health.”
“If you do not reach out to your manager by March 15, 2024, you shall be deemed to have resigned employment from Nova Scotia Health,” it warned.
“We understand this update may raise questions and concerns associated with a return to work,” the email stated. “We encourage you to reach out to your manager to discuss any supports and resources you may need to assist with your transition back to the workplace.”
BREAKING: Nova Scotia Health Authority backs down on its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, offering those who lost their jobs the opportunity to return to work.
In the statement released by the Nova Scotia Health Authority, they say, "This change reflects our commitment to respecting… pic.twitter.com/ZFBAG2H7Wt
— The Canadian Independent (@canindependent) February 21, 2024
The policy change comes amid record-high healthcare wait times of 27.7 weeks, the longest in the past 30 years and 198% longer than the 1993 average of 9.3 weeks.
The data surveyed 1,200 Canadian doctors across 12 specialties and 10 provinces. The report found that Nova Scotia had the longest wait time of 56.7 weeks, followed by Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick with 55.2 weeks and 52.6 weeks, respectively.
Vaccine mandates for healthcare workers remain in place across Canada despite the critical staff shortages in hospitals. While some provincial governments have lifted their mandates, many hospitals still require the experimental vaccine.
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