OTTAWA – The federal privacy watchdog is investigating “multiple complaints” about the government’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for public servants.

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Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therian said in a statement Friday that his office was looking into the concerns, but gave no details as to whether they are now the subject of an “ongoing investigation.”

The Liberal government announced earlier this month that core public servants should be vaccinated against the virus or face suspension without pay by November 15.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced this week that the provinces and the federal government have agreed on a new national vaccine passport for domestic and international travel.

Therian said his office has had “constructive discussions” with federal officials over the past few months on the standardized proof-of-vaccination for travel initiative.

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“That being said, in recent days, our office has received several complaints regarding the government’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for federal public servants. We will therefore examine the application of the Privacy Principles in this context.”

He said that although the initiatives are different, the principles applied to require vaccine passports for travel and vaccinations for federal public servants remain the same.

“So until we have completed our investigation, it would be unfair to draw conclusions,” Therian said.

“Given the complaints about the public service vaccination requirement is now the subject of an ongoing investigation, no further details can be provided.”

Therian said on Friday that vaccine passports can provide significant public health benefits but they are extraordinary measures. “They should only be imposed after careful consideration of privacy and other human rights principles.”

In May, Therian and his counterparts across the country said that respect for laws and principles governing personal information should guide the introduction of vaccination certificates to facilitate the transition to life after the pandemic.

In a joint statement, federal, provincial and territorial privacy commissioners said that to be justified, vaccine passports must be necessary to achieve their intended public health objectives, and their effectiveness in meeting the goals must be evidence-based.

The commissioners also stated that the privacy risks associated with the initiative should be proportionate to the objective, personal information collection should be limited, data used only for the intended goal, and the program should have an end date.

“The government has provided us with information related to each of these criteria,” Therian said on Friday. Jim Bronskill

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 22, 2021.