Critics accuse B.C. government of passing the buck on school vaccination mandates

The B.C. government has formed a committee that will advise individual school boards on how they can bring in vaccine mandates for teachers and other school staff in their districts. But critics say it should be a province-wide mandate.

“They’re asking the boards to do it. Well that’s just, in my opinion, an abdication of responsibility: 'If I pass the buck to the school boards, the public will leave me alone,'” said Victoria parent Elizabete Costa.

Surrey teacher Lizanne Foster argues the district-by-district approach doesn’t make sense.

“We’ve got 60 school districts. Are 60 school districts now going to one-by-one go through some process to determine whether and how they’re going to mandate vaccines?” Foster said.

Both Costa and Foster are worried by leaving it up to individual school boards, there will be a patchwork of vaccine mandates across the province.

“And what’s the government going to do with boards that don’t want to impose that mandate, don’t want to have the discussion, and don’t want the pushback from some parents in the community that don’t believe in vaccines?” said Costa.

Foster said while she feels confident the Surrey School District’s approach, “I know other teachers across the province are in districts that may not be comfortable with the district having the power to determine this. It’s a province-wide education system, and the province should have that determination.”

After initially only giving individual school districts the ability to mandate masks for students in kindergarten through Grade 3, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry bowed to public pressure and made it province-wide last week. Advocates hope that happens again with vaccine mandates in schools.

“They should lead on this. What the worst thing that's going to happen?” said Costa. “If somebody does not want to be vaccinated when they work with children, they’re not in the right profession, in my opinion.”