Vaccines: Do I Have a Right to Refuse and What Are the Legal Consequences?

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(Montréal, March 3, 2021) — In general, vaccinations are not mandatory. However, in some exceptional cases like the COVID-19 pandemic, the Quebec government can make them mandatory in the public interest. Refusing vaccination may mean restrictions certain places or on certain activities.

In normal times, individuals have the choice to accept or to refuse a vaccine. There are currently no mandatory vaccines in Quebec – this includes for COVID-19 or for any other illness. The choice to be vaccinated is like other health care decisions, and a person’s freedom cannot normally be restricted due to their decision not to be vaccinated.

However, the Public Health Act grants the government special powers during public health emergencies. Specifically, this act gives the government the power to order all or some of the province’s population to be vaccinated against a contagious disease that seriously threatens the health of the population. This act also gives the regional director of public health the power to order unvaccinated people to stay away from any place where there is an outbreak of a contagious disease.

In these extraordinary situations, a judge can even order someone to take the vaccine if they refuse. However, there are ways to contest mandatory vaccine orders. For example, people may invoke their religious beliefs. However, it is unclear whether these types of exemptions would succeed as no court has yet been asked to decide this question.

Vaccinations in Quebec

To give someone a vaccine – either an adult or a minor – they must first consent. In Quebec, parents normally give consent on behalf of their children under 14. Children over 14 can consent for themselves. If an adult cannot express their consent, another person can consent on their behalf.

Information about vaccination

The COVID-19 vaccine is free. For more information, you can visit the Quebec government’s website.

To learn more about consenting to medical procedures (this includes vaccines), you can read our article Consent to Medical Care and the Right to Refuse Care.

About Educaloi

Founded in 2000, Educaloi is a neutral and independent organisation with expertise in legal education and clear legal communication. Educaloi’s mission is to simplify the law and to develop the legal skills of Quebec’s population. The goal is to increase the autonomy of individuals and communities. Educaloi’s team is made up of 30 professionals from different disciplines who work together to democratize the law.

Educaloi is financed by its partners, the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre de Notaires du Quebec, the Société québécoise d’information juridique and is also supported by Justice Canada, Justice Quebec, and the Commision des services juridiques. In support of its legal education activities, Educaloi is supported by the Desjardins Foundation. Educaloi also finances its activities through contracts, consulting for businesses and non-profits, and by on-going fundraising. For more information, visit us at educaloi.qc.ca/en and educationjuridique.ca/en.

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For Media Inquiries:

Katia Bouchard, Director of Communications and Philanthropy
katia.bouchard@educaloi.qc.ca

Cell: 514 912-1838