The Canadian group known as Free to Fly, comprised of pilots and airline workers who lost their jobs due to non-compliance with COVID vaccine mandates, has taken legal action against the federal government. They have filed a class action lawsuit seeking full compensation for the harm caused by the vaccine mandate in the aviation industry.
The Class Action Lawsuit
Free to Fly Canada, represented by counsel Umar Sheikh of Sheikh Law, has officially launched a class action lawsuit against the Canadian government on behalf of aviation employees affected by vaccination mandates. In a press release issued on Wednesday, the group announced its comprehensive approach to holding the government accountable and seeking justice for the thousands of impacted workers.
The lawsuit names Greg Hill, Brent Warren, and Tanya Lewis as representative plaintiffs, representing a proposed class of individuals who have suffered harm due to the government’s Transport Canada’s Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirements for Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19, No. 43.
The Vaccine Mandate and Its Consequences
In October 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced unprecedented COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal workers and those in the transportation sector. The policy stated that unvaccinated individuals would no longer be allowed to travel by air, boat, or train, domestically and internationally. As a result, numerous individuals lost their jobs or were placed on leave for non-compliance.
On June 20, 2022, Trudeau temporarily suspended the COVID travel vaccine mandates. Last October, the Canadian federal government removed all remaining COVID mandates in Canada, including masking on planes and trains, COVID testing, and mandatory quarantine for vaccinated Canadians.
According to Free to Fly, Trudeau’s order led employers to violate contractual agreements with thousands of Canadian employees, infringing upon rights guaranteed by the Charter and interfering with free and fair collective bargaining.
The First Case of Its Kind
Free to Fly emphasized that this is the first time such a case has been brought before Canadian courts, and they take pride in pioneering this legal course. Their class action is open to unvaccinated employees who have been adversely affected by Transport Canada’s Interim Order, No. 43.
Impacts on Employees and Call for Accountability
The negative impacts on affected employees include termination of employment, coerced early retirement, or suspension. While employers often referred to these suspensions as a “leave of absence,” they were, in reality, involuntary. Free to Fly believes that the government, unions, and employers have failed these individuals, and this lawsuit is their means to fight back and seek justice.
Legal Proceedings and Desired Outcomes
Free to Fly has requested that their class action lawsuit be heard in a federal court in Vancouver, British Columbia, where their legal representation, Umar Sheikh, is based. The group is seeking not only general and special damages but also a declaration that “Ministerial Order 43 violates the Plaintiffs’ and the class members’ rights to life, liberty, and security of the person and is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” thus violating the Charter.
The group’s legal representation has been working diligently to advance the pursuit of justice for aviation workers who have suffered due to COVID mandates. Greg Hill, one of the plaintiffs, is a pilot with extensive flying experience and played a key role in establishing Free to Fly. Hill, who was placed on unpaid leave for refusing to comply with the mandates, stated that the lawsuit aims to prevent a descent into authoritarian tyranny, which he sees as a concerning trend.
According to Hill, the lawsuit is not a singular action but a multi-faceted approach to holding those responsible accountable. He believes that it is high time to demand answers from these individuals.
Furthermore, Free to Fly represents over 3,000 supporters from 20 different companies within the Canadian aviation sector. The group is not alone in taking legal action, as another group of over 176 active and non-active WestJet employees has also filed a lawsuit against the airline and the Canadian federal government regarding forced COVID vaccine mandates implemented last fall.