Sault Ste. Marie rolls out vaccination policy for city staff

Sault Ste. Marie is moving ahead with its own vaccination program for staff ahead of the province's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Part of the city's rollout includes an education campaign for those who are vaccine-hesitant.

CAO Malcolm White said the Sault's vaccination policy for municipal staff will likely go into effect this week.

"As many other municipalities are doing, or have done, we are implementing our own policy for our own staff and contractors and casual staff and volunteers who may work in our programs," said White.

He said staff will be required to provide proof of vaccination. Those who don't will have to submit to regular COVID testing and provide a negative result.

For those hesitant about getting the vaccine, White said the city will impose a mandatory education program.

"We fully understand that there's a lot of information and misinformation about COVID as an infectious disease and COVID vaccination," he said. "We will work with staff to ensure they have access to accurate information on the benefits of that vaccination program."

White said any employee refusing to comply with the testing provision will be placed on unpaid leave.

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano said there has been some push-back from the public regarding vaccine mandates. Some of that push-back came in the form of a gathering outside city hall during Monday night's council meeting.

"People have a right to demonstrate and they have a right to assemble and express their political opinion," said Provenzano.

"Frankly, I'm grateful they were doing that here in front of city hall as opposed to in front of a place like our hospital. So, I welcome political discussion, I welcome political disagreement as long as it's done peacefully and I respect it."

Sudbury and North Bay city councils will be discussing their respective vaccine policies later this month. A spokesperson for the City of Timmins said it has no vaccination policy for municipal staff at this time.