All travellers within Canada, federal employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

As Canada continues to endure a fourth wave of COVID-19, the federal government is implementing new vaccine requirements for travellers and federal servants. Nigel Newlove reports.

By Cormac Mac Sweeney and The Canadian Press

Anyone wanting to travel by air, rail, or sea in Canada must be fully vaccinated by the end of the month according to a new federal policy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new measure Wednesday which will also require all federal employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

There will be a one-month grace period where proof of a recent negative COVID test will still be accepted but by November 30, all travellers in federally regulated air, rail and marine services will have to be fully vaccinated. Testing exemptions will only be allowed in extremely limited emergency situations.

The new mandate will also apply to passengers travelling internationally on flights departing from Canadian airports.

The onus will be on those operators, such as Air Canada, West Jet, Via Rail, to verify proof of vaccination which can include paper copies or provincial vaccination passports.

When it comes to ferries, passengers will not have to be vaccinated, however, all federally regulated vessels with more than 12 crew will face mandatory vaccination for their staff.

The government says it will work with the cruise industry to put in place strict requirements ahead of the 2022 cruise season.

“If you’ve done the right thing and gotten vaccinated, you deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID-19, to have your kids be safe from COVID, to get back to the things you love,” the Prime Minister Justin said.

Approximately 82 per cent of eligible Canadians have received a double dose of Health Canada-approved vaccines, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at the same briefing.

“This …is about the government taking action on behalf of that majority who spoke in the election, to be sure that a minority of people cannot sabotage Canada’s economic recovery and cannot allow the fourth wave or other variants to cause real problems for us,” Freeland said.

All federal employees have until October 29 to provide their vaccine status after which they could find their access to the workplace restricted and placed on administrative leave without pay.

Those who have received just one of two COVID-19 shots would be placed on administrative leave without pay if they don’t receive their second shot within 10 weeks of the first dose.

Those public servants who still refuse to get vaccinated by November 15 will be placed on unpaid leave until they can prove their vaccination status has changed.

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

Employees who provide false attestations will be punished with disciplinary action, including firings.

This policy applies to more than 267,000 workers, regardless of whether they work in the office or remotely.

The new policy does not apply to employees of crown corporations or members of the Canadian Armed Forces, however, they are asked to enforce similar measures.

Stephane Aubry, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), said his union is concerned about how those accommodations will play out.

While his union is not planning to challenge the new policy, they may have to file grievances on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“This is a concern for us because it’s pressure on the employees, and we will defend our members as much as we can,” Aubry said in an interview Wednesday.

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