“We could have a situation where the parts of the province that most need mandates are less likely to implement them.” – Teri Mooring

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The BC Federation of Teachers is urging members to get vaccinated as it demands a government mandate to ensure a fair policy across the province, with some of the largest employers demanding that staff be protected against COVID-19.

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Union president Teri Mooring said Friday that it is up to the provincial government to take the lead at a time when cases among schoolchildren are on the rise rather than relying on 60 school districts to come up with their own vaccine mandates.

Amarre noted that vaccination rates are lower in some parts of the province, such as the Paz region in the north, so trustees there may face “a high level of rejection” about requiring teachers to be vaccinated as condition of employment.

“We could have a situation where the parts of the province that need mandates the most would be the least likely to implement them,” he said, adding that a mosaic approach could affect any unvaccinated teacher working in multiple districts.

Prime Minister John Horgan said Thursday that it is up to elected trustees to decide on vaccine mandates rather than having the province enforce them and that school districts are the employers of school personnel.

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However, Mooring said a legislative fix or a public health order is needed to protect school children who are not eligible to get vaccinated.

That group accounts for half of unvaccinated residents in British Columbia, according to a report this week from an independent group analyzing pandemic data in the province, where cases among children ages five to 11 are rising dramatically in three of the six health authorities.

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The teachers union sent its 45,000 members a letter Thursday night saying its leadership plans to meet with the BC Public School Employers Association and the Ministry of Education to ensure that a provincial vaccine mandate includes a process to accommodate to teachers and protect their rights through complaints. if necessary.

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Mooring also said teachers should be vaccinated because the union may not be able to help them unless they have a legitimate exemption, in case the province requires them to be vaccinated.

“You have to go ahead and do it,” Mooring said Friday. “There are consequences that could affect the pay of the members, the pensions of the members, the benefits of the members.”

The province announced this week that some 30,000 public sector workers would have to be vaccinated before November 22 or risk losing their jobs.

Mark Thompson, emeritus professor of industrial relations at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, said the government may ultimately not intervene in any vaccine legislation.

“If I were the government, I would let Dr. Bonnie Henry carry the water, frankly,” he said of the provincial health official, adding that she has routinely connected with the public using scientific data to justify public health orders, including the recent extension of a mask mandate for children in kindergarten through third grade.

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“If you look at other jurisdictions, it’s a different story,” Thompson said, referring to the focus on Alberta, where Prime Minister Jason Kenney has been accused of invalidating some experts in that province.

British Columbia recorded 743 COVID-19 cases on Friday, along with five more deaths, equivalent to 2,001 deaths since the pandemic began.

The Lake Babine Nation declared a COVID-19 state of emergency on Friday, banning all non-essential travel and gatherings in its five communities in central British Columbia.

The nation said in a statement that it is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 infections with two to three members a day testing positive.

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Its emergency declaration, which is in effect until Nov. 5, says the nation has already lost at least six members to the virus.

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TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s transportation network and Insurance Corporation of BC announced on the same day that their workers must be fully vaccinated by November.

A statement from ICBC says its directive applies to all employees and contractors and that the auto insurer believes that having a mandatory vaccination program is an added safety measure.

TransLink said its policy affects 8,300 workers employed by TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company, BC Rapid Transit Company and Transit Police.

Its CEO, Kevin Quinn, said in a written statement that the decision is important as more people return to using public transportation.

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