The Ontario Superior Court has issued an interim injunction against the University Health Network's attempts to terminate a group of unvaccinated employees, the Toronto Sun reports.
The University Health Network (UHN) encompasses the Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and The Michener Institute of Education.
Six UHN employees brought forward an urgent motion to the court on Friday afternoon, which was the deadline UHN had set to terminate those who had not yet taken the COVID-19 vaccine.
"The harm raised by the applicants is potentially serious and cannot be undone," wrote Ontario Superior Court Justice Sean Dunphy, in a decision issued Friday. "It is alleged that some or all of them may be compelled to take the vaccine against their will because they cannot in their personal and family circumstances take the risk of being left destitute by the policy they are seeking to challenge."
This is purportedly the first time that a vaccine mandate in Ontario has been impeded by the courts.
The interim injunction does not apply to all of the "approximately 180 … [UHN] employees refusing the vaccine," but rather just to the six plaintiffs and 19 others who were in the process of joining the legal action at the time the motion was launched. It is also not a permanent injunction, but rather pauses the effects of the mandate for one week until the court can reconvene on Thursday. The court will then determine whether or not the court even has jurisdiction over the matter, as UHN argues it is a matter of collective bargaining over which the court does not have a say.
Justice Dunphy emphasized that the issuing of the injunction should not be mistaken for a judgment on the actual mandate, stating that "there may be merit to both positions" and that the Ontario judge would "need time to be better briefed."
One lawyer who has clients planning to add their names to the list of plaintiffs said there may be broader implications that stem from this injunction.
"While the Court has only issued an interim injunction based on the specific facts of this case, it will give pause to other employers throughout Ontario which have adopted policies to terminate employees who are not vaccinated," wrote Ryan O’Connor, a partner at Zayouna Law Firm, in an email to the Toronto Sun. "It may also cause employers to pay greater attention to requests for accommodations or exemptions under workplace vaccination policies."
In a statement to the Toronto Sun on the matter, UHN wrote: "A small number of individuals sought and received an interim injunction until later this week. UHN has no comment on this matter as it is before the court."
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