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A former Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) captain and helicopter pilot has been granted permission to appeal a denial of his Employment Insurance (EI) benefits after he was terminated from the military for declining a COVID-19 shot on the basis of his religious beliefs.
Captain Michal Zagol was granted leave to appeal to the Appeal Division of the Social Security Tribunal (SST) on Aug. 23. Permission was necessary to challenge the General Division’s rejection of Mr. Zagol’s EI benefits, a decision made on June 9 due to alleged “misconduct.” The pilot submitted his appeal on July 4.
The Appeal Division grants leave to appeal only in circumstances where it can be shown that the General Division of the SST failed to follow a fair process, failed to decide a matter which it should have ruled on, failed to follow the law correctly, or misunderstood or overlooked important facts.
In issuing leave to appeal, tribunal member Pierre Lafontaine said Mr. Zagol’s claim “has a reasonable chance of success.”
Mr. Zagol, who is 35 and a Roman Catholic, applied for a religious exemption to the CAF’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy implemented in the fall of 2021 around the time of the federal election. He told The Epoch Times he clearly communicated to his commanding officer that he was “unable to be vaccinated due to [his] religious beliefs.”
“My religion is not misconduct,” Mr. Zagol said. “I researched at length and discovered all of the vaccines were tested on human fetal cells. Taking the COVID shots would be immoral.”
He said despite a number of meetings with his commanding officer explaining his religious beliefs and discussing why they prevented Mr. Zagol from being vaccinated, he was declined an exemption at the beginning of December 2021.
The denial came after the CAF had already escalated administrative penalties against him, said Mr. Zagol. He submitted a grievance but was terminated from his position with the Air Force Division of CAF on June 13, 2022, after hours of training on specialized aircraft and helicopters.
He began flight training in a Grob G120A fixed-wing trainer, a two-seat aerobatic low-wing aircraft with a tricycle landing gear, specifically designed for agility and precision.
He then flew a Harvard II, which is a high-performance single-engine turboprop aircraft that can climb at 3,300 feet per minute and pull 7 Gs of force. From there, he mastered form flying, navigation, and instrument flying, and ultimately landed in the rotary wing