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Chief Justice Paul Crampton

Federal Court becomes first known court to disclose COVID-19 vaccination status of its judges

Friday, September 03, 2021 @ 4:20 PM | By Cristin Schmitz


The Federal Court, Canada’s travelling national trial court, has become the first known court in the land to publicly disclose the COVID-19 vaccination status of its judges and prothonotaries.

In a terse one-liner tweeted out Sept. 2, the Ottawa-based court said: “the 53 members of the Federal Court are pleased to inform the public that we are all fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

 Chief Justice Paul Crampton

Chief Justice Paul Crampton

The proactive disclosure by the Federal Court, which is led by Chief Justice Paul Crampton, follows recent stories by The Lawyer’s Daily which asked several federally appointed courts — in furtherance of their obligations of transparency and accountability as part of a separate branch of government — whether they are requiring their judges and staff to vaccinate against COVID-19.

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) has told The Lawyer’s Daily it is “unfeasible” to offer “one-size fits all” national guidance or advice on the matter: “Each respective court, under the leadership of their chief justice, must independently determine the best approach to follow given their circumstances, to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all persons who attend the court building, as well as access to justice and the proper functioning of their court,” the CJC said. 

Although the Federal Court is the only known court so far to proactively disclose its judges’ and prothonotaries’ vaccine status — particularly important information since it is an itinerant court — the court has not disclosed how many of its several hundred employees in registries across the country are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The chief justice’s office did not answer The Lawyer’s Daily’s queries as to whether, in the absence of a federal vaccine mandate, Chief Justice Crampton and his judicial colleagues have a policy with respect to unvaccinated staff, including whether the judges will bar from their chambers — or otherwise not work in physical proximity to — any unvaccinated judicial assistants, law clerks or other registry employees.

(In an Aug. 23 e-mailed statement to The Lawyer’s Daily, the Courts Administration Service, the registry for the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, Tax Court and Court Martial Appeal Court, said it “will follow any mandate ordered by the government of Canada” for its hundreds of federal employees — however, the ongoing federal election has raised doubt about the vaccine mandates the Liberals announced last month if the incumbent government is not re-elected Sept. 20).

On Aug. 25, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench became the first known court in Canada to apply a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy to its judges, judicial assistants and others entering the judges’ chambers. Any judges who are not fully vaccinated (without a bona fide medical exemption) will not be assigned judicial duties this month, Chief Justice Glenn Joyal told The Lawyer’s Daily.

The Lawyer’s Daily is asking the chief justices and chief judges of all the courts in Canada what policies, if any, they have with respect to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for the judges of their courts, and court staff.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Cristin Schmitz at Cristin.Schmitz@lexisnexis.ca or at 613-820-2794.