The City of Quesnel seeking to have the court dismiss a lawsuit brought by group of former employees who lost their jobs for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a notice of application filed Sept. 8, the municipality contends that both the B.C. Labour Relations Code and judicial authority have established that the B.C. Supreme Court is "without jurisdiction to determine the Plaintiffs claims."
It goes on to cite Weber v Ontario, a 1995 Supreme Court of Canada decision that "settled the law" with regard to jurisdiction between the court and labour arbitrators by giving "exclusive jurisdiction" to an arbitrator if a dispute arises from a collective agreement established under labour relations legislation.
It also notes that the union representing the employees has filed a grievance on their behalf, alleging that the municipality's vaccine policy was "unreasonable, an over-reaching exercise of management rights and violated employee's privacy rights and rights to bodily integrity."
The matter is scheduled for arbitration on Oct. 27-28. As such, it would be an "abuse of process" to permit the plaintiffs to continue their claim, the municipality says.
"Our courts have consistently held that Arbitrators can award damages in the same way that a court could make such an award," the municipality states and adds that it "could include any alleged damages that could arise from the implementation of a mandatory vaccination policy by an employer at the workplace."
In June, a notice of claim against the municipality was filed on behalf of nine former employees.
According to the claim, they oppose submitting to an "unwanted medical procedure" that "involves the injection of Experimental Vaccines that are ineffective at preventing infection and transmission and carry severe risks, up to and including the risk of death; and overrides their right to exercise their right to informed consent in matters of medical risk-taking."
According to the claim, the municipality's city manager, Byron Johnson, issued a policy on Nov. 5, 2021 requiring all employees, volunteers and contractors show proof they were fully vaccinated by Jan. 3, 2022 and those who failed to do so would be put on four weeks leave without pay.
Those who still refused and did not receive an accommodation under the Human Rights Code within that time frame would in turn be terminated and likely would not qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, Johnson further warned.
The nine were put on leave without pay on Jan. 10, 2022 and, on Feb. 7, 2022, all were terminated from their employment with just one qualifying for EI benefits until May 2022.
In addition to an order dismissing the notice of claim, the municipality is also seeking costs against the plaintiffs and "such other relief" that the court deems just.
The application will be presented to a judge or master at the Prince George courthouse during the last week of September.