Justin Trudeau announces mandatory vaccine policy for government workers, domestic travelers

On Wednesday, October 6, 2021, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that federal public servants and domestic travelers will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 30.

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The mandate will require public servants and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to be fully vaccinated at the end of the month or be put under an unpaid leave of absence. Employees will be required to report their vaccination status by October 29.

The policy will also apply to employees that work remotely from home. A senior official told CBC that employees that fail to report their vaccination status, or who are not vaccinated will be denied pay and will not qualify for employment insurance (EI) benefits.

Additionally, all domestic travelers after October 30 will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to board places, trains, or marine vessels in Canada. 

During the Wednesday press conference, Justin Trudeau said that “These travel measures, along with mandatory vaccination for federal employees, are some of the strongest in the world because when it comes to keeping you and your family safe, when it comes to avoiding lockdowns for everyone, this is no time for half measures,”.

“It’s very straightforward: If you want to continue to work for the public service of Canada, you’re going to need to be fully vaccinated. And the way to ensure that that happens as quickly as possible is to allow for the vast majority of public servants who are vaccinated, to make a simple straightforward attestation… That allows managers and departments to focus in on those people who will not,”

Justin Trudeau also stated that people who are vaccinated “deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID.”

“If you’ve done the right thing and gotten vaccinated, you deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID. To have your kids be safe from COVID. To get back to the things you love.”

Justin Trudeau also stated that exemptions to the mandatory vaccine policy would be “few” and “extremely narrow”

“For the vast, vast majority of people, the rules are very simple — to travel, you’ve got to be vaccinated,” Trudeau said.

“If you haven’t gotten your shots yet but want to travel this winter, let me be clear, there will only be a few extremely narrow exceptions, like a valid medical condition.”

Speaking of the mandate, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that “vaccine mandates work,” adding that the policy is to be a  “nudge to get them to take this action.”

“These mandates will push us to a higher enough degree of vaccination so that our economy can continue to be open and our kids can go to school,” Freeland added.

In response to Justin Trudeau’s announcement, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) President Chris Aylward, which represents more than 160,000 federal workers, said that the union has concerns about what the government is proposing as it seems “rushed” and the unions were not consulted.

“When the prime minister first talked about vaccination policy on August 13, he said that they would be talking to the unions… There was no meaningful consultation on this policy,” President of PSAC Chris Aylward said in an interview. 

“When the prime minister first talked about vaccination policy on August 13, he said that they would be talking to the unions. We were told that there would be full consultation on this and there wasn’t quite simply. We were given this draft policy late Friday evening and we’re told Monday you have to respond. Yesterday, they extended the deadline to last night. And then at 11:00, the Prime Minister makes this announcement. There was no consultation. We see all kinds of holes in this. They rushed this through. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. They just wanted to make this to say, hey, tick off the box. We just announced an election promise that we made. How is this going to be applied and implemented in the workplace? We have no clue. We have more questions than answers around this policy because there was no true meaningful consultation at all.”

In another interview, President of PSAC Chris Aylward said the organization will defend its member’s rights. 

In recent weeks, the RCMP union also said that it would support its member’s”right” to refuse to get vaccinated. The RCMP union also stated that it would back up any member who refuses vaccination once the mandatory vaccination policy for the federal public service is in place. 

In an email from the National Police Federation (NPF), they state that “The [National Police Federation] supports a member’s right to choose to be vaccinated or not,” and “We will assist and represent members individually with their choice and its possible employment consequences.”

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