A senior military commander in western Canada says he does not expect much protests from Canadian military personnel over mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
Ottawa requires federal employees, including members of the military, to be fully vaccinated by the end of this month. The government expects employers in federally regulated industries, including banks and airlines, to do the same.
Brigadier-General. Bill Fletcher, who is responsible for the 3rd Canadian Division of Western Canada, oversees the training of Canadian troops and operations from the Pacific Ocean to Thunder Bay, Ont.
He has around 12,000 regular and reserve forces under his control.
“It has been made very clear by the government that we will follow the same direction that the government has given public service and that we will introduce mandatory vaccines into the Canadian military,” Fletcher said in an interview from his office in Edmonton.
He said more than 90 percent of Canadian military personnel have already been double vaccinated and he is not worried about any pushbacks, which he calls a small percentage.
“We were already dealing with the deployment implications … of non-vaccinated people moving into a COVID-heated environment or moving into an international setting where the host country has said, ‘You will be double vaccinated, ” They said.
“Those people will ultimately have to decide whether they will be vaccinated.”
He said he could not comment on what would happen to workers who were not vaccinated. But the federal government has said that public servants will be placed on unpaid administrative leave if they are not vaccinated by October 29.
Fletcher said responding to COVID-19 has been a learning process for the Canadian Forces, as it was “nothing that anyone talked about in any of my military training.”
He said members of the military have helped with both pandemic aid and vaccine distribution across the country.
Some of the calls for aid included the outbreak of COVID-19 in far northern communities such as the Shmattawa First Nation in Manitoba, the Fond du Lac Densuline First Nation in Saskatchewan, and the Fort Nelson First Nation in British Columbia.
Fletcher said it has been positive for Army personnel’s mental health to be able to help during the pandemic, as the early stages of sitting at home with their families “get old very quickly.”
“They are women and men who did not join to sit at home. It started to take a toll, I think, from a mental-health standpoint, certainly from a training standpoint,” Fletcher said.
“We had soldiers who were contemplating being released, actually pulling their release to be able to respond on behalf of the Canadians. So I think it was very cathartic. That’s what we ended up doing. What soldiers wanted to do.”
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