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Religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccination shouldn’t be decided by managers: unions

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Friday is the deadline for employees in the core federal public service to declare their COVID-19 vaccination status, but unions say there are still many questions about how requests for accommodations will be handled.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat says 240,000 employees have filed their attestations of their vaccine status to the government, out of approximately 268,000.

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for federal workers by end of October, Trudeau announces

Chris Aylward, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says there is a big hole in the policy when it comes to deciding if unvaccinated people should be accommodated under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

He says unions are very concerned that it is left up to individual managers to determine if employee’s religious or conscience convictions about vaccines are valid.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said exemptions will be difficult and onerous to obtain, and simply having a personal conviction that vaccines are “bad” will not be sufficient.

Unvaccinated employees who have not been offered some kind of accommodation will be put on unpaid leave as of Nov. 15, and the government said previously those employees will not qualify for employment insurance benefits.

Read more: Religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandate: Here’s what we know, what we don’t

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