New Brunswick invokes notwithstanding clause in bill making vaccination mandatory

FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government has invoked the notwithstanding clause to shield vaccination legislation tabled Friday against charter challenges.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said the law making vaccinations mandatory for children in schools and daycares unless they have a medical exemption is needed.

"Over the past year, there have been outbreaks of diseases which are preventable by vaccine that put the health and safety of our students at risk," Cardy said in a news release.

He acknowledged Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which allows governments to override parts of the charter, is rarely used.

"We remain committed to helping to protect the most vulnerable people within our population and will use every power we have to ensure New Brunswick’s schools and daycares are safe for our children," he said. 

The new rules, which would take effect Sept. 1, 2021, were introduced this year amid a measles outbreak in southern New Brunswick.

Cardy said New Brunswick's proposed vaccination rules are in line with similar decisions elsewhere in the world, including Germany, where starting next March measles immunization will be compulsory for all children and staff in kindergartens, schools, medical facilities and community facilities.

New Brunswick's Act Respecting Proof of Immunization would require children in public schools and licensed daycare facilities to provide proof of immunization or a medical exemption signed by a medical professional. Currently, non-medical exemptions are allowed.

"Vaccines are a safe and proven way to prevent the spread of many potentially life-threatening diseases," Cardy said. "This legislation is protecting individuals with compromised immune systems and will help keep our children safe, healthy and ready to learn."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2019.

The Canadian Press