McGill University to require vaccine passport for libraries, but many still want it to be mandatory for classes

McGill University has announced that it will soon require proof of vaccination for access to its libraries, but some faculty members who have been calling for a more widespread vaccine mandate say the new policy falls short of protecting people on campus.

In a memo shared with the university community on Friday, the university’s deputy provost of student life and learning, Fabrice Labeau, announced that the new policy will take effect mid-October.

By that time, students, faculty members, instructors, researchers, as well as administrative and support staff, will have to show their vaccine passport to gain access to the entire library system.

Library staff and employees “providing services in the library” are exempt from the new policy, the memo stated.

“The logic of it makes no sense. If you're going to do it in a library, why are you not doing it in a classroom?” said Richard Gold, a McGill law professor and director of the Centre for Intellectual Property, in an interview Friday.

Gold, who has been openly critical of McGill’s COVID-19 protocols, said he welcomes the shift in requiring the vaccine passport in more public spaces, but said the policy should cover the entire university community.

In the memo, Labeau said the university “intends to apply the passport to the fullest extent possible under law to provide strong incentives for members of the McGill community to get vaccinated.”

“While the library was not part of the original list of places and activities requiring a vaccine passport at McGill, we have determined that it is possible to apply it, as long as students, faculty and staff can get access to materials needed for study or work through other means.”

Some on social media are also questioning McGill's announcement.

Except it doesn't apply to library staff or "other employees providing services in the library"..?

and two weeks ago students were told that mcgill couldn't, wouldn't, had its hands legally tied from requiring vaccines? this is all so messy. https://t.co/1yh3iYgfff

— Laura Charney (@LauraCharney) September 17, 2021

So ✅ for cafeterias and libraries! Baby steps! Good job! Now let’s see this for classes and residences! https://t.co/6fb528Mi2u

— Judy Rayman (@JudyRayman) September 17, 2021

From the latest deputy provost email:

McGill cannot have a vaccine passport… but we’re gonna have one for the library now. We weren’t going to, but we will now.

But it only applies to users, not to library staff or other employees providing services in library.

Cc:@IP_policy

— Jonathan Jarry (@crackedscience) September 17, 2021

The university said it has plans to accommodate people who do not have proof of vaccination.

Outside of McGill, the vaccine passport is, in fact, not required for access to libraries in Quebec, according to the Government of Quebec's website

Gold, also an associate member in McGill’s Department of Human Genetics, said he welcomes any additional protection, but said the new library policy is “insufficient” and renewed calls for a revamp of the university’s current policy on COVID-19.

“It's a policy that is dangerous and is out of tune with the desires of the community. All the public health experts, including McGill's great McGill School of Population and Global Health, has been telling the administration since August that they need to do better,” including adopting Quebec’s existing COVID-19 vaccine passport.

Calls have been growing for weeks for the university to require proof of vaccination on campus with the threat of the highly-transmissible Delta variant spreading in the middle of the pandemic’s fourth wave.

On Sept. 1, members of the Students' Society of McGill University held a protest outside the university to demand the vaccine passport requirement. The passport is required for campus pubs and some voluntary activities, such as conferences, but it is not mandatory for campus residences or to attend class.

A McGill spokesperson said the university was made aware of three cases of COVID-19 in a research lab in the McIntyre Building and that an investigation is ongoing to determine where it may have been transmitted to others.

While people on social media have claimed there are also cases relating to university members in the Faculty of Law, spokesperson Cynthia Lee said the Case Management Group “has received no reports of a group of people with symptoms or who have tested positive in the Faculty of Law at this time.”

The McGill COVID-19 case tracker noted there has been an increase in cases overall on campus. There have been 18 cases reported on campus from Sept. 5 to 11, up from six cases from the week before.

“McGill University continues to work closely with public health officials to adopt policies and put into practice measures to protect students, staff and faculty. With the return to campus for the fall semester, vaccinations are a critical part of that strategy,” read part of McGill’s statement to CTV News.

Lee added that McGill hosted a vaccination clinic on campus on Sept. 3 to encourage more people to get their shots and that more than 85 per cent of the McGill community is fully vaccinated, according to figures from Ministère de la Santé et des Services Sociaux and the Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur.

“These figures include all Quebec students," she said, "as well as the out-of-province students who were vaccinated in Quebec."

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