In order to work for the government of Canada, you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, officials say.
The federal government announced its vaccination mandate on Wednesday, saying that public servants must show they’re fully inoculated by Oct. 29 or face unpaid administrative leave.
Disciplinary action is expected to begin Nov. 15. The policy also applies to those who work from home and outside of the country.
Furthermore, Canada will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 30.
“To be clear, the policy as of Oct 29, if you want to work for the government of Canada, which means the people of Canada, you have to be fully vaccinated,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The mandatory vaccination policy follows up on a promise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made in August before calling the summer election.
Public servants’ vaccination declaration will be tracked and audited by individual departments, and managers can ask for proof of vaccination at any time.
Employees who provide false documents will face punishment, including firings.
People who have had only one dose will be given 10 weeks to get their next one before they are put on unpaid leave. They won’t be allowed back at work until they are either vaccinated or the policy is no longer in effect.
Vaccination against COVID-19 will also become mandatory for anyone 12 and older travelling on a plane or train within Canada by Oct. 30.
“If you’ve done the right thing and gotten vaccinated, you deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID,” Trudeau said. “These travel measures, along with mandatory vaccination for federal employees, are some of the strongest in the world.”
Regarding travel, there will be a period during which people who are in the process of getting vaccinated can show a negative COVID-19 test, but that option will expire Nov. 30.
Government officials said anyone planning a trip in the coming weeks should book their vaccine appointment now. Travellers caught falsifying documentation, as well as transportation operators who don’t comply, will face discipline.
Under the mandate, accommodations can be made for people who can’t get a vaccine on grounds protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act, which includes certain religious and health reasons.
But Trudeau promised exemptions will be difficult to obtain, and having a personal belief that vaccines are “bad” will not work.
Other federally regulated workplaces, like Crown corporations and government agencies, will be asked to create programs that mirror the mandatory vaccine policy for their employees. Canadian Armed Forces members will also be required to be vaccinated.
Cruise companies will also be asked to implement mandatory vaccines for employees and travellers in time for next year.
Stephane Aubry, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), told The Canadian Press his union is concerned about how the accommodations will play out.
His union doesn’t plan on challenging the new policy, but they may have to file grievances on a case-by-case basis, he said.
“This is a concern for us because it’s pressure on the employees, and we will defend our members as much as we can,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told its members that it will represent them through the grievance process if they don’t get a vaccine.
However, they warned the process could take two or three years and there is no court precedent that could predict the outcome.
After being re-elected with another minority government, Trudeau has said one of his first priorities would be to introduce the mandate, as well as the vaccine policy for travel within Canada.
Trudeau also said the government is almost done with its vaccine passport for international travel, and will cover the costs for provinces that roll out proof-of-vaccination programs.
The government is also working on legislation to make it a criminal offence to threaten or harass health-care workers.
— with files from Rachel Gilmore and The Canadian Press
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