MONTREAL — The student union at a Montreal junior college is seeking a court order to prevent in-person exams that they worry will put students and their families at risk of COVID-19.
Kevin Contant-Holowatyj, chairperson of the Dawson Student Union, said his organization filed the request for injunction on Thursday, adding that students are worried they might catch the virus while writing an exam or while travelling to the school and bring it home to their family.
"We have a lot of students that have reached out with concerns about the safety of in-person exams, concern as well for their family's safety," he said in an interview Friday. He said the college has not made plans to accommodate immunocompromised students or students who are self-isolating because they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
He said vaccination only opened to students over 18 recently and those under 18 still have to wait several more days before they can make an appointment to be vaccinated.
Contant-Holowatyj said only chemistry, math and physics exams are scheduled to be held in-person and the student union believes Dawson College is exaggerating the need for in-person exams after a year of online classes.
In-person exams have not been held at the college, the largest English-language junior college in Quebec, since last spring. He said the legal filing to stop the exams — which are scheduled to begin May 27 — is a last resort.
"We have been working for the past month and a half, talking with the college, trying to find a middle ground," he said.
Dawson College refused to comment, citing the fact that the matter is before the courts.
Meanwhile, vaccination of some Quebecers under 18 began Friday in Nicolet, Que., and Shawinigan, Que., northeast of Montreal. Guillaume Cliche, a spokesperson for the regional health board, said that while people aged 12 to 17 weren't the target group for the walk-in clinics held in the region, no one was turned away.
Health Minister Christian Dubé told a news conference Thursday that people aged 12 to 17 would be able to start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at two drive-thru sites in Montreal as of Friday. Only one site, at Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, is currently operating. The other, at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, is scheduled to open for three weekends in late May and June.
But on Friday, most people under the age of 18 still couldn't make appointments online for the two drive-in sites. Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, a spokeswoman for the regional health authority that runs the drive-thru vaccination clinic at the Trudeau airport, said people 12 through 17 can be vaccinated if they come with a parent who has an appointment.
She said, however, the site has limited supplies of the Pfizer vaccine — the only COVID-19 vaccine approved for people under 18 in Quebec — and it will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.
Dubé's office did not respond to a request for comment. General vaccination of people aged 12 to 17 is officially scheduled to begin on Tuesday in Quebec.
Quebec's public health institute said 52.5 per cent of all Quebecers have received at least one dose of vaccine. The province said it administered 107,261 doses of vaccine Thursday, for a total of 4,747,192.
Health officials reported 752 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and nine more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus but none in the previous 24 hours. Health officials said hospitalizations dropped by 23 from the day before, to 437, and 106 people were in intensive care, a decline of one.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press