Employees and passengers of the main public service, air and rail travel must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October, in accordance with Canada’s new mandatory vaccination policy.
The federal government announced Wednesday that public servants must attest that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 29 or receive an administrative leave without pay.
Meanwhile, the government is working with employers from airport companies, airlines and rail companies to develop their own mandatory vaccination policies by the end of the month.
Anyone over the age of 12 who plans to get on a plane at a Canadian airport or on a Via Rail or Rocky Mountaineer train must have received a second dose of a Health Canada-approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to their trip.
For travelers, there will be a short transition period to allow the unvaccinated to show a negative molecular COVID-19 test instead, although the grace period will last only until November 30.
Cruise companies will also be asked to implement mandatory vaccinations for employees and travelers in time for the 2022 season.
The new policy will affect more than 267,000 basic RCMP and public service workers, and will apply even to those who work from home and abroad.
“This … is about the government taking action on behalf of the majority who spoke out in the elections, to make sure that a minority of people cannot sabotage Canada’s economic recovery and cannot allow the fourth wave or other variants cause us real problems, “he added. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a news conference Wednesday.
But the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents more than 160,000 federal workers, said the government did not adequately consult bargaining agents or incorporate union comments.
“We see this is being rushed, without meaningful consultation,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president.
The Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Canada makes vaccinations mandatory for civil servants, air and rail transport workers, and travelers. #CDNPoli # COVID19 # Covid19vaccine
The union has questions about how the government plans to protect workers’ private medical information and how it will keep unvaccinated contract workers and visitors out of federal workspaces, he said.
“And of course human rights, members’ human rights must be protected by Canadian Human Rights Act, including the duty to adapt,” Aylward said.
Workers will need to provide an online certification of the status of their vaccine. Departments will track and audit attestations, and managers can request proof of vaccination at any time.
Employees who provide false attestations will be punished with disciplinary action, including termination.
People who have only received one dose will be given 10 weeks to receive the next before they are granted leave without pay.
They will not be allowed to return to work until they are vaccinated or the policy is no longer in effect.
Employees on leave without pay generally will not qualify for employment insurance benefits, authorities said.
Aylward said options to accommodate unvaccinated workers should be explored.
“What if this work can be done remotely? What about reassignment of duties? None of that was explored,” he said.
But the government has opted for a direct approach.
“It’s very simple. If you want to continue working for the Canadian public service, you will have to be fully vaccinated,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Approximately 82 percent of eligible Canadians have received a double dose of Health Canada-approved vaccines.
The PSAC does not keep track of how many of its members are vaccinated, but expects the vast majority to have received their vaccinations.
Accommodations will be made for individuals unable to receive a vaccine for reasons protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, which includes religious and health reasons for not having a complete list of vaccinations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said exemptions will be difficult and expensive to obtain, and that simply having a personal conviction that vaccines are “bad” will not be enough.
The policy will be reviewed every six months as it is closely linked to public health measures.
Stephane Aubry, vice president of the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), said his union is concerned about how those accommodations will play out.
While his union does not plan to challenge the new policy, they may have to file complaints on a case-by-case basis, he said.
“This is a concern for us because it is pressure on employees, and we will defend our members as much as we can,” Aubry said in an interview Wednesday.
The Canadian Correctional Officers Union wrote to members that it will represent them through the complaint process if they choose not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but warned that the process could take two to three years and there is no judicial precedent that could predict the Exit.
Other federally regulated workplaces, such as Crown corporations and government agencies, will be asked to reflect the public service mandatory vaccination policy for their employees.
Acting Chief of Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre will also issue a directive requiring vaccination of the Canadian Armed Forces.
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 6, 2021.