Three University of Winnipeg Collegiate instructors are suing the university and the provincial government after they were forced to take unpaid leave over the school’s COVID-19 vaccination policy.
In a statement of claim filed Monday, instructors Renise Mlodzinski, Evan Maltman and Kyle Du Val allege they were placed on involuntary leave last September after the university enacted a policy requiring everyone working or attending classes on campus to provide proof they are fully vaccinated against the virus.
The policy describes vaccination as "the single most effective public health measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19" and "essential" to the university’s response to the pandemic.
All three instructors, (the statement of claim) says, applied for vaccine exemptions on religious grounds, which the university rejected.
The instructors argue "autonomy" over their own personal health issues takes priority over "reduction or elimination of the associated risks to life."
"There is neither a moral obligation to vaccinate, nor a sound ethical basis to mandate vaccination under any circumstances, even for hypothetical vaccines that are medically risk free," alleges the statement of claim. "Under the present circumstances, when the science clearly demonstrates that the so-called vaccines do not provide either complete sterilizing immunity nor prevent the ‘fully vaccinated’ from infecting others, the grossly unethical nature of vaccine mandates" becomes even more clear.
An Alberta lawyer representing the three instructors did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
The statement of claim details alleged health risks associated with the vaccines, charging that they are "experimental in nature" and have not been subject to rigorous testing.
Requiring the instructors to undergo vaccination for COVID–19 against their wishes makes the university guilty of assault, they claim.
All three instructors, it says, applied for vaccine exemptions on religious grounds, which the university rejected.
In forcing the instructors to go on leave, the university is "removing caring professionals from public service in a random and disruptive manner that will irreparably harm students," the statement of claim alleges.
Requiring the instructors to undergo vaccination for COVID-19 against their wishes makes the university guilty of assault, they claim.
"To the extent the policy seeks to coerce employees to be vaccinated against their will, without informed consent, the policy amounts to an expressed intention to engage in a conspiracy to commit assault," the claim alleges. "There is no more basic right to security of the person than to have control and physical autonomy over one’s own body."
They claim they have suffered damages that include psychological trauma, threats and assaults, post–traumatic stress disorder and loss of income and employment opportunities.
The statement of claim alleges the province and chief medical officer Dr. Brent Roussin, a named defendant in the lawsuit, have perpetuated a "false sense of security" that vaccinated people will be protected from infection.
"The rhetoric has resulted in a large portion of Manitobans believing that if they are fully vaccinated they are safe from the virus and cannot become infected or infect others," says the statement of claim. "Omicron has exploded this mythology."
The instructors allege once they were placed on unpaid leave, their vaccination status was "immediately apparent," and they were subjected to "vilification and extreme ill will."
They claim they have suffered damages that include psychological trauma, threats and assaults, post-traumatic stress disorder and loss of income and employment opportunities.
A spokesperson for the province declined to respond directly to questions about the lawsuit, writing in an email: "Manitoba takes the health and (well-being) of all Manitobans into account when it drafts public health orders and relies on all Manitobans to do what is right."
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.