Canada is making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all workers in federal service by this fall, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc announced on Friday.
“We are also calling on all federally-regulated industries and sectors, and we are also calling on crown corporations to follow suit,” LeBlanc told reporters in French at a news conference.
The implementation will take place no later than October, he added.
“We expect the federal public service to want to comply with this mandatory requirement,” LeBlanc said. “This is the best way to end the pandemic and allow the economy to safely remain open.”
The requirement will extend to travellers on commercial flights, interprovincial passenger trains and cruise ships.
However, testing and screening measures will be put in place for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, LeBlanc said, but did not specify how the government would deal with workers who refuse to be vaccinated.
“Those will be cases that will be dealt with individually by the appropriate public service managers,” he said. “But what we’re saying to the federal public service is that this is now a mandatory requirement to go to work in a federal workplace or to work for the Government of Canada.”
There are close to half a million people who work directly for the federal government, a Crown corporation, the military or the RCMP.
Nearly a million more work in federally regulated industries, which includes banks and airlines.
Couple of months ago, the federal government had resisted the idea of vaccine mandates, but LeBlanc said the new landscape changes things.
“This is an evolution of the government’s posture in protecting the health and safety of Canadians since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said. “We have scientific data but also real-world evidence on how remarkably effective are the vaccines that have been approved for use by Health Canada.”
Speaking at the same press conference, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra stressed that by the fall, there will be a vaccine requirement for all transportation workers as well.
“No later than the end of October, the government of Canada will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail and marine transport sectors to be vaccinated,” he said.
The vaccination requirement will also extend to all commercial air travellers, passengers on interprovincial trains, and passengers on large marine vessels with overnight accommodations, such as cruise ships, he added.
Several organizations representing federal employees have already come out in favour of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“As the union representing the scientists who approved the COVID-19 vaccines, PIPSC welcomes all efforts to increase vaccination coverage in Canada,” Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, told Global News on Friday.
“That includes a vaccine policy in the federal government that makes vaccines more accessible to our members and accommodates legitimate reasons for which an employee may not be vaccinated.”
Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association also expressed her support for the decision in a tweet on Friday.
The National Airlines Council of Canada has also welcomed the announcement.
“As these new policies are implemented, Canada’s major carriers will maintain their ongoing support for vaccination campaigns, while continuing to invest heavily in the safe restart of travel and tourism in order to drive our national economic recovery in every region of the country,” Mike McNaney, President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, said in a statement Friday.
The council will be seeking “further details and clarifications from government concerning new vaccination requirements for domestic air travel,” he added.
– With files from Reuters and The Canadian Press