OTTAWA – “Core” federal public servants must face being fully immunized against COVID-19 by October 29 or going on leave without pay by November 15. And, anyone who wants to board a plane in Canada will have to prove they have been vaccinated by October 30, the federal government has announced.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday outlined the details of the new COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“It’s about keeping people safe at work and in our communities,” Trudeau said. “If you’ve done the right thing and got vaccinated, you deserve the freedom to be protected from COVID-19, to get back to the things you love, to keep your kids safe from COVID.”
For federal employees, this policy will apply whether employees work remotely or from an office, and if they work outside Canada. The plan differentiates between those who are unable to be fully vaccinated, and those who are unwilling to be vaccinated.
Exemptions will be made for “proven medical contraindications” as well as for religious reasons. However, these accommodations will be given only under certain parameters, including providing documentary proof of the requirement for the exemption, according to senior government officials, who briefed reporters on the policy on a not-for-attribution basis before the announcement.
In addition to being placed on unpaid leave, employees who do not confirm their vaccination status, or certify that they have not been vaccinated, will be required to take an online training session on COVID-19 vaccines. They will also not be able to reach their workplace or any off-site event or meeting. Travel for business including attending conferences will also be restricted.
These work-related measures will also be imposed on partially vaccinated workers, although they will have up to 10 weeks to receive their second dose before being placed on unpaid leave.
Compulsory vaccination policy includes the RCMP, as well as approximately 80 federal departments, agencies and offices such as the Department of Health, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Canada Border Service Agency.
However, the policy will not apply to employees of several public-facing service departments, including Service Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency. The new rules also do not apply to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, although Freeland said the Chief of Defense Staff would move to make vaccinations mandatory under its own parameters.
Some flexibility will be given for employees who are unable to access vaccinations or provide their verification by the deadline due to the work they currently do. They will have two weeks from the date they both have access to comply with the policy.
Officials suggested that while the policy doesn’t extend to obliging all employees in federally-regulated workplaces to be vaccinated, the government is asking them to follow suit.
Instead of requiring employees to provide their vaccine receipts the way many Canadians are now being asked to access certain public places such as restaurants and gyms, federal public servants must submit an online verification of their vaccination status, But the evidence may be asked to show “at any time.”
Officials said the tracking system opens on Wednesday for some employees to start submitting their verifications.
“If an employee makes a false statement, they run the risk of disciplinary action, which could eventually lead to them losing their jobs,” a senior official said.
The government is considering fully vaccinating workers 14 days after receiving the full vaccination series of a Health Canada authorized vaccine, receiving an NACI-approved mixed-dose vaccination series, or if a Quebec resident receives a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 vaccine . At least one dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine following 19 infection.
Proof for travelers effective from October. 30
In addition to federal employees, employees and passengers in the federally regulated air, rail and sea transportation sectors, must be fully vaccinated by October 30.
This means that any employee—including retail or hospitality establishments in restricted sections of airports—or passengers aboard any domestic flights, or inter-provincial trains or cruise ships, must provide proof of vaccination. There will be limited exemptions for Indigenous communities that require fly-in services such as medical care.
This policy will apply to any traveler 12 years of age and older who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada. To qualify, people must receive their last dose 14 days before travel. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be acceptable to the Board for the time being, although that option will not be available until the end of November.
“Our message to all non-vaccinated travelers is clear: If you are planning travel in the coming weeks, you need to book your vaccine appointment now,” an official said.
On August 13, just two days before calling a federal election — where policy had become a central issue — Trudeau announced that the federal government would make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for federal public service employees as well as those in the union. Degi-Regulated transport sector.
Since then, the federal government has been working with public service unions and the transportation sector to create a complete policy and applicable exemption criteria.
Officials said the policy would be re-evaluated every six months to determine whether the policy needs to be upheld, citing the public health objective of the mandate.