Alberta premier says it will be illegal to ‘discriminate’ vaccination status

Premier Danielle Smith says she will not implement any future COVID-19 restrictions or vaccine mandates. As Laura Krause reports, she will instead make changes to the Human Rights Act to now allow any discrimination based on vaccination status.

By Laura Krause, Alejandro Melgar and Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

It could soon be illegal to “discriminate” in Alberta based on COVID-19 vaccine status, according to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith on Thursday.

In a conference at the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce with businesses and organizations, Smith spoke in her first public appearance since questions from the media after she won the UCP leadership.

“The things that will be coming through within the fall as well, is a change to the Human Rights Code to make it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their COVID vaccination status,” Smith said.

She asked businesses and organizations in the province to align their COVID-19 policies with her government. That would include municipalities such as Edmonton, which butted heads with the province at times over health policy during the pandemic.

“I recognize that there are still some organizations and some businesses in Alberta, that are still doing that (discriminating), and I just want to give you a fair warning that we are going to be making a serious pivot in that regard,” Smith said.

“I would just ask if you would work with us to align your policies with the direction that we want to go in Alberta because we want to send the message to the community, to the world community, and to the investment markets, that this is a place that is open for business.”

Smith has said there will be changes to the provincial Human Rights Act to not allow any discrimination on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination, and that she will not implement any future COVID-19 restrictions.

Criticism was thrown at Smith for calling unvaccinated people the most-discriminated group she has seen in her lifetime and received fierce backlash on social media, including from Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek. She later addressed those comments without an apology.

READ MORE: Alberta Premier Danielle Smith addresses comments about unvaccinated being ‘most discriminated-against’


While she has admitted to some conflict over the vaccine passport program with municipal leaders, Smith says she hopes to renew those relationships.

“I was very pleased to hear that the province is willing to continue to work with us, that is good news, because we have a lot in common. We can work together to continue to work together to help grow our economy, revitalize our downtown Chinatown businesses district,” said Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

Journey to fix health system will be ‘bumpy’

Smith is also promising rocky times ahead as she reorganizes the entire governance structure of provincial health services before the end of January.

“It’s going to be a bit bumpy for the next 90 days,” Smith said in her speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

“I know that it’s perilous to try to reform an area this big — this close to an election, but we must do it.”

She added: “I would hope that there’s a bit of goodwill, that some of the successes get reported as well, [and] if we’re making some mistakes along the way, just be patient and gentle with us. Because we know that we have to do this for all Albertans.”

Smith, on her first day as premier last week, reiterated her United Conservative Party leadership campaign promise to fire the governing board of Alberta Health Services, the agency responsible for delivering front-line care provincewide under policy direction from the Health ministry.

She has publicly blamed AHS for botching the COVID-19 pandemic by not delivering promised extra hospital beds to handle the flood of patients. She has also criticized the agency for directing employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, saying that led to needless vacancies and staff shortages.

Speaking to the chamber, Smith also laid current hospital problems and long wait times at the feet of AHS.

“We cannot continue on hearing stories of people dying in the back of ambulances or waiting for nine hours in an ambulance or waiting 29 hours on a hospital floor,” she said.

While Smith reiterated that her government will follow through on her campaign promises, she came under fire during the UCP leadership race in July for making misinformed comments about cancer during the first official debate.

Smith also suggested that if people choose to prevent getting cancer, they would save taxpayer dollars from going to medical treatment.


“I know there’s going to be pressure on our healthcare system,” said Smith.

“But the way you solve the pressure on your healthcare system is not by shutting down restaurants. And it’s not by shutting down hotels. And it’s not by making the business community be the ones to bear the brunt of it.

“We’re not going to be closing schools. We’re not going to be disrupting kids’ activities.

“We want to send the message to the world community, and to the investment markets, that this is a place that is open for business, that this is a place that believes in freedom, this is a place that believes in free enterprise.”

That announcement was greeted with a smattering of applause.

Smith is also scheduled to announce a new cabinet on Friday. The new members are to be sworn in on Monday.

She said the UCP caucus had a retreat this week in Sylvan Lake and played paintball, blasting each other with pellets to build trust and foster camaraderie.

When asked by the chamber’s moderator how her first week as premier has been, Smith replied: “bumpy,” without elaborating.

She began her first day in office by announcing she was rolling back on a promise to give the legislature the option to ignore rulings from the Supreme Court of Canada.

On Tuesday, she apologized for making comments earlier this year on the Russia-Ukraine war that were deemed to be pro-Russia. Smith had said it would be better for Ukraine to follow Russia’s desire to remain militarily neutral, which upset many in Alberta’s large Ukrainian community.

-With files from Toula Mazloum, Joey Chini, and Hana Mae Nassar

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