Federal COVID vaccine mandates

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Chrystia Freeland hold a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, July 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

 “Core” federal public servants will have to attest to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29 or face being put on leave without pay by Nov. 15. And, anyone who wants to board a plane in Canada will have to prove they’re vaccinated by Oct. 30 with “limited exemptions,” the federal government has announced.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined the details of the new COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Wednesday.

“This is about keeping people safe on the job and in our communities,” Trudeau said. “If you’ve done the right thing and gotten vaccinated, you deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID-19, to have your kids safe from COVID, to get back to the things you love.”

For the approximately 267,000 federal workers that fall under this new policy, it’ll be applicable whether employees work remotely or from the office, as well as if they work outside of Canada. The plan differentiates between those who are unable to be fully vaccinated, and those who are unwilling to be vaccinated.

There will be exemptions made for “certified medical contraindications,” as well as for religious reasons. Though, these accommodations will only be granted under certain parameters, including providing documented medical proof of the requirement for the exemption or testifying under oath to their religious beliefs, according to senior government officials that briefed reporters on the policy on a not-for-attribution basis, ahead of the announcement.

In addition to being put on unpaid leave, employees who do not attest to their vaccination status, or attest that they are unvaccinated, will be required to take an online training session on COVID-19 vaccines. They will also not be able to access their workplace or any off-site events or meetings. Travel for business, including to attend conferences, will also be prohibited.

In addition to federal workers, employees and passengers in the federally-regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors will have to be fully vaccinated as of Oct. 30.

This means that any worker—including at retail or hospitality establishments in restricted sections of airports— or passengers boarding any domestic flights, or interprovincial trains or cruise ships will have to provide proof of vaccination. Ferry passengers are not included in these new rules.  There will be a short period of time where proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be acceptable to board, though by the end of November that option will no longer be available.

- with files from CTV -