Sask. doctor who made COVID-19 vaccine claims targets university, health authority in lawsuit

A surgery professor who made controversial statements regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccines last year has filed a lawsuit against the University of Saskatchewan.

Dr. Francis Christian, appeared in an online video where he called for the pause of the COVID-19 vaccinations for children and called the vaccines "experimental injections."

Medical evidence has shown that COVID-19 vaccines are effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Christian later doubled down on his statements while speaking with reporters.

Christian was subsequently suspended from the university and fired by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) is assisting Christian with the claim, which also names the SHA.

The JCCF is also currently challenging penalties issued to protesters when the Saskatchewan government’s COVID-19 outdoor gathering-size limits were in place.

Christian is challenging his suspension and termination.

In court documents provided to CTV News by the JCCF, Christian alleges the SHA defamed him, which caused him to take early retirement.  He has also named Scott Livingstone, former CEO of the SHA and Dr. Preston Smith, the dean of medicine at the university.

“The Saskatchewan Health Authority and the college have violated Dr. Christian’s Charter-protected freedoms of expression and conscience. The college’s conduct is a gross violation of the principles of academic freedom and scientific inquiry,” one of the lawyers representing Dr. Christian, Andre Memauri said.

“The defamatory statements made by some of the defendants against Dr. Christian add insult to injury, and Dr. Christian will pursue justice accordingly.”

In an emailed statement, the university said it is aware of the legal action.

“The university intends to advance a vigorous defence in these proceedings. Since the matter is before the courts, the university will not make further comment at this time.”

The court documents note that the problems began when Christian participated in a panel discussion that was recorded in June 2021.

“In the video, Dr. Christian expressed concerns about the censorship of scientific facts and opinions during the pandemic,” the lawsuit states.

At the time, Smith made a blog post addressing the online video.

In a June 2021 interview, he told CTV News the university supports and upholds the right of faculty to freely communicate in the areas of their scholarly work, but he did not agree with the statements made by Christian.

“At this point and time, the biggest concern that I have is it could lead to further vaccine hesitancy as people have doubts created by false information,” he said.

A few days later, Christian held a press conference outside of a Saskatoon school and called for the pause on COVID-19 vaccinations for children. He said he supported the vaccine for the elderly, the vulnerable and health care workers.

At the time, the SHA provided a statement to CTV saying it doesn’t support any opinions that cast doubt on the seriousness of COVID-19 or the effectiveness of vaccines.

“This kind of communication feeds conspiracy theories and misinformation, as well as sends the false message that our health care workers at the front line are somehow faking or making up the loss of life and trauma.”

In August 2021, Christian submitted a written appeal of the decision to suspend his academic responsibilities, according to the court filing. He also submitted a complaint to the university's academic clinical relations committee but claims he received no response.

According to the statement of claim, the college completed a formal investigation in April 2022 and issued a letter to Christian that said, “the investigator concluded that Dr. Christian’s statements were made in a civil manner, in good faith, and that he did not engage in unprofessional conduct or act contrary to the safety of individuals and the public.”

The lawsuit was filed on June 22.