Almost a year after a mandate COVID-19 vaccination policy was implemented for the Canadian Armed Forces, 299 members have been discharged from the military because they refused to be vaccinated.
In October 2021, a directive from the Chief of Defense Staff on COVID-19 vaccines came into force that makes two doses of a vaccine a requirement to join or work in the Canadian Armed Forces. The CDS gave CAF members until the end of November to get vaccinated or face corrective action, including possible dismissal.
In addition to the 299 military members who were told to leave the forces, an additional 108 members of the Regular Forces requested to leave voluntarily as of September 13, citing the mandatory vaccination policy as the main reason for their release. Departures represent about 0.56 percent of the approximately 71,500 currently serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
In a statement, the military says the vaccine requirement is an institutional decision made to “ensure operational readiness.”
“CAF needs to take a more operational approach as a force of last resort, compared to other federal departments,” a Canadian Armed Forces spokesman said in a statement emailed to CTV News.
“As the force that must be ready at all times to carry out national and international military operations, sometimes in places with limited or no access to specialized medical care, CAF has a stricter requirement to enforce health protection measures. to protect the operational readiness of personnel.”
the original directive forcefully issued says the policy will remain in place “until sufficient widespread immunity is achieved in the general Canadian population.” the most recent data shows that 82.08% of the total Canadian population has received at least two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, and 16.17% of the population has completed their primary services or received an additional dose in the last six months.
In June, the Government of Canada suspended its mandatory vaccination policy for federal employees, including civilians working for the Department of National Defense. The change meant that public servants previously on unpaid administrative leave as a result of the vaccination policy could return to work at full pay. Then this week, Ottawa revealed that remaining border measures, including a proof of vaccination requirement for all travellers, would be lifted along with other COVID-19 measures effective October 1.
The federal government continues to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated, saying it’s the best way to protect against the disease.
However, the policy for those currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces has not changed.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and shadow health minister Michael Barrett have questioned the mandate.
“I think it’s important to weigh the operational requirements of the Canadian Armed Forces,” Barrett said, adding that there are different vaccination requirements as a condition of employment in the military than in other workplaces. “If there’s a specific operational requirement, that’s one thing, but I think just as a condition of your employment, that, like anyone who works for the federal government, should be removed.”
Several military officers have tried to fight the mandate in court, but none have been successful.
When asked why the policy has not changed and if CAF has any intention of ending its vaccine mandate, a spokesman for the armed forces says decisions are based on “requirements and operational imperatives.”
“This is an institutional decision made to protect CAF members and the Defense Team, ensure operational readiness, and demonstrate responsible leadership to Canada and Canadians through the Defense Team’s response to the pandemic,” wrote a spokesperson in a statement, adding that the CAF follows the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization on vaccines and booster shots.
The military ombudsman has said there is no problem with the forces’ vaccination requirement or how it is being enforced. In fact, the military ombudsman’s office told CTV News that it has received only 10 complaints from currently serving members about the requirement. In those cases, says the Military Ombudsman’s Office, they have not found injustice in the application of the forces’ policy.
With archives from The Canadian Press