Charlie Schweitzer, a double major in political science and communications and media at the University of Calgary (U of C), says she has a number of issues with new vaccine passports on her campus.

“I got the email September 13 saying mandatory testing won’t be offered for the winter semester and the vax will be mandatory on campus unless a legal exemption can be provided,” Schweitzer said.

“It’s backing students into a corner.”

U of C President Ed McCauley issued a statement to students indicating COVID-19 vaccinations would be mandatory.

“As communicated on Sept. 13, nine Alberta post-secondary institutions, including the University of Calgary, have announced today that we will be strengthening the role vaccinations play on post-secondary campuses moving forward.

“The University of Calgary will be requiring students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated — or have a legitimate exemption to vaccination — by Jan. 1, 2022. Additionally, visitors to campus will be required to provide proof of vaccination status, effective Oct. 1, 2021.”

Upon receiving the news from the president via e-mail, Schweitzer set up a Facebook page, now titled “Alberta University Students & Faculty Against V*Mandates.”

“I started it (the Facebook page) on September 13 and by that night there were 490 people signed up. By the next day we went over 1,000,” Schweitzer said.

To date, the page has seen over 2,300 students and faculty members join.

“We have also broken off onto Discord and other more secure chat sites,” Schweitzer said, citing her concerns over security as well as student bullying.

“This is creating a really hostile environment among students,” Schweitzer said, having witnessed online bullying of students who have not been vaccinated.

She shared her concerns with the U of C vice-provost — Student & Enrolment Services.

One of the main concerns Schweitzer has surrounds Thrive Health, the software provider the university is using to collect students’ personal health information.

“When I went to register [with Thrive Health] I couldn’t get past their privacy statement. Everything I read appeared to be illegal and I was like, what’s happening here?” Schweitzer said.  

“The founder of Thrive Health is also a CEO of a pharmaceutical company. I don’t feel comfortable sharing my private medical information with this company.”

In back-and-forth e-mails with the U of C officials, Schweitzer expressed her concerns asking how the school would be dealing with this “obvious conflict of interest” and how the school was making sure unvaccinated individuals were being kept safe and not discriminated against.

Schweitzer received a follow-up response Monday from U of C officials instructing her to reach out to their privacy office about concerns around the collection of student vaccination information.

“It is my understanding that vaccination information is not considered private health information but (the health office) can clarify,” the e-mail stated.

“I was happy to see they said they appreciated me reaching out with my questions rather than accepting at face value, which they (U of C officials) said is important,” Schweitzer said in reference to the response.  

While struggling to keep up with her classes, Schweitzer said she and many students have come together to create committees to continue to fight the coming mandates.

“It’s not easy, but it’s cool to see so many people willing to stand up for this,” she said.

Calgary constitutional lawyer Carol Crosson sent out legal letters to a number of Alberta post-secondary institutions last week on behalf of the nearly 400 students she is supporting.

“I write on behalf of post-secondary students across the province of Alberta who have alerted our firm that some post-secondary institutions are denying exemption requests to vaccine and testing policies when these requests are in fact rooted in the protected human rights grounds of disability and religious belief. Refusing these objections is not permitted under law,” said Crosson’s letter.

Sharelle Colling, one of the students working with Crosson, is a student at the University of Alberta.

“A group of us (students) have planned a protest for this Wednesday at 3 p.m. on the Concordia campus (in Edmonton),” Colling said.

“We chose this campus because they have been quite heavy-handed with their mandates, already announcing security guards at the entrance to check everyone before entering the building.”

Concordia University in Edmonton opted to move classes online until October 3. Classes on campus will resume the following Monday when staff, students, contractors and volunteers will need to prove they’ve had at least one shot. Proof of double vaccination will be required by October 25.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard

Reporter (Alberta)

Melanie Risdon is an Alberta Reporter for the Western Standard and Alberta Report based in the Calgary Headquarters. She has over 20 years’ experience in media at Global News, Rogers and Corus.

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