Federal Court dismisses case from B.C. public service staffer who alleged political influence in decision to refuse EI benefits to unvaccinated workers

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A British Columbia Public Service worker, who alleged political influence relating to the refusal of EI benefits for workers who were suspended for violating COVID-19 vaccination policies, has lost his appeal at the Federal Court.

The worker, PD, sought judicial review of an earlier Social Security Tribunal Appeal Division (SST-AD) decision. He sought review after the SST-AD refused to grant leave to appeal a decision by the Social Security Tribunal General Division (SST-GD), which had aligned with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission’s (EI Commission) decision to deny his employment insurance (EI) benefits.

The dispute centered around PD’s suspension from employment due to non-compliance with his employer’s COVID-19 vaccination policy. PD was placed on leave by the British Columbia Public Service from Nov. 24, 2021, with the stipulation that his employment might be terminated if he remained unvaccinated or undisclosed his vaccination status.

PD, who worked remotely, opposed the mandatory vaccination and disclosure policy, considering it irrational. He claimed that the EI processing officers and the EI Commission were politically influenced to deny benefits to those who didn’t comply with employer vaccination policies. Davidson pointed to public comments by the Minister responsible for the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada and an internal memo as evidence.

The Federal Court noted that PD’s allegations about a “government-wide effort to prevent claimants who opposed their employer’s vaccination policies from obtaining EI benefits” was not the subject of the application — the decision under review is only that of the SST-AD.

The court found that ruling reasonable and dismissed PD’s application. The court also rejected his motion to admit new evidence, including affidavits and a blog post, as it did not meet the criteria for new evidence on judicial review.

In conclusion, PD’s claims of bias and breach of natural justice in the decision-making process were found to be unsupported and speculative. The court maintained that allegations of bias require substantial evidence and cannot be based on mere suspicion or conjecture.

As a result, the court dismissed the application for judicial review and his motion to admit new evidence, with no costs ordered.

For more information, see Davidson v. Canada (Attorney General), 2023 FC 1555 (CanLII)