Canadian service members, legal 'Samurai for hire' go to court to stop military COVID vax mandate

Judge who says Candadian courts are "not the thought police" maintains social media ban on released Freedom Convoy leader — to prevent "toxic groupthink."

Updated: June 1, 2022 - 11:05pm

As U.S. service members ramp up their legal challenges to military COVID-19 vaccine mandates, their Canadian counterparts are joining the action.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) said Tuesday it had filed "the first of many [planned] injunctions" against the dismissal of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members for refusing the shots "on the basis of health concerns, religious or conscientious objections."

The Canadian civil liberties group has received "hundreds of requests" for help since January from active-duty members who are facing removal under the Item 5(f) process, it said in a press release

CAF considers them "unsuitable for further service" because they developed "personal weakness or behaviour" due to factors "wholly or chiefly ... within [their] control" by refusing COVID vaccines.

Canada's Department of National Defence confirmed to Canadian news organization True North in November that members of the armed forces risk removal as "unsuitable" unless they get an approved accommodation. CAF's vaccination rate was 98.3% in January when it launched formal proceedings against more than 900 members for noncompliance, The Canadian Press reported.

Legal challenges are much further along below the border. Navy SEALs with religious objections, represented by First Liberty Institute, won a reprieve in January from a federal judge, who then expanded their action into a class-action suit covering the entire service in March. The Navy said May 25 it has granted 28 religious accommodations.

Air Force service members also represented by the Christian legal defense nonprofit recently requested a "class wide temporary restraining order" after their religious exemptions were denied. Only 68 exemptions have been approved.

JCCF's first client to go to court is Shannon Jones, "a healthy and skilled" CAF member who stands to lose her pension unless her injunction is approved at next week's hearing. Director of Communications Marnie Cathcart told Just the News it wasn't sharing its filings "at this time."

"This is fundamentally a patched together policy designed to punish those who do not get in line with the political objectives assigned to [Department of National Defence] policy from Ottawa," said the lawyer commissioned for the project, Phillip Millar.

The vaccine mandate has "nothing to do with operational effectiveness as it is simply a political move imposed on the military by the Federal Government," he said in JCCF's release.

A former combat officer and assistant crown attorney who says he has won compensation cases for sexual assault victims and cleared the "wrongfully accused," Millar recently applied to join the "hardcore litigation department" billionaire Elon Musk is building at Tesla. He calls himself a "Samurai for hire" on Twitter.

Millar told Just the News these were his first COVID vaccine cases for service members. He has previously represented university professors put on unpaid leave on the same grounds.

He expects one or two injunction hearings per month and is planning to add cases on behalf of unvaccinated youth who are prevented from training in the "Army Cadet" program.

Millar believes CAF chose the "unsuitable" administrative removal process because a vaccine-specific rule lets members challenge their removal in court. If he can secure injunctions for clients, they can remain in the service while finishing the multiyear grievance process, Millar said.

JCCF kicked off the legal effort a month ago with 16 CAF members, including 28-year reservist James Topp, who faces court martial for "conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline."

He posted a Tik Tok video in which a uniformed Topp says he's on unpaid leave "because I will not change my vaccination status," the CBC reported. The video did not violate a military policy on "people in uniform making political statements" because Topp was "speaking about a policy that directly affects him and his conviction," Millar said.

Topp is walking across Canada to protest COVID mandates and support those punished for noncompliance or coerced into compliance, chronicling his journey on Tik Tok for the past few months. He reached the Lake Superior town of Marathon on Monday. 

 

 

He started his journey from Vancouver on Feb. 20, the same day police cracked down on Freedom Convoy protesters in Ottawa under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's unprecedented invocation of the Emergencies Act.

"I have to watch what I say from here on out for a little while because the Eye of Sauron is upon me," Topp said as he left, likening CAF to the primary antagonist in "The Lord of the Rings."

One of the jailed Freedom Convoy leaders has been banned from speaking her mind, at least on social media, as a condition of keeping her freedom.

The government argued last month that Tamara Lich should be sent back to jail for violating her March bail conditions, which included a ban on supporting anything "related" to the Freedom Convoy, including on social media, and travel to Ontario.

A supporter sent her a pendant emblazoned with a truck image and the words "Freedom" and "Canada" and asked for a photo of her wearing it, which Lich gave permission to post, the CBC reported.

She also accepted JCCF's George Jonas Freedom Award for "spending 18 days unjustly jailed" for leading a "peaceful protest" against COVID mandates. The award ceremony is June 16 in Toronto, but Lich testified she wouldn't attend without court permission.

Justice Kevin Phillips agreed these actions didn't violate her bail conditions and amended them to let her travel to Ontario but not downtown Ottawa, which had been paralyzed by the convoy. Even though he said Canadian courts "are not the thought police," Phillips refused to lift the social media ban because that would facilitate "toxic groupthink," JCCF said after the hearing.

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