Lecce says Ontario could see 50,000 education workers fired if vaccines are mandated

One week after a deadline for hospitals and other stakeholders to provide vaccination numbers for workers, Premier Ford says he's not ready to impose mandatory requirements. Mark McAllister reports on the reasons and gathers reaction from Queens Park

By The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Up to 50,000 education workers in Ontario could be fired if COVID-19 vaccines were mandated for that sector, the province’s education minister said Tuesday.

Responding to the NDP in question period, Stephen Lecce said such a policy would mean pink slips for tens of thousands of educators when Ontario already faces staffing challenges.

“I think we have to be coupled by realism and ensure that any staff member who enters our school has a double test, a negative antigen test, to ensure they are safe, to ensure our schools could be staffed, and these kids can continue to go to school every day,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Lecce said unvaccinated staff have to test negative twice a week.

“We expect absolute compliance with our directive, approved by the chief medical officer of health, or else those staff are not to enter Ontario schools,” Caitlin Clark said in a statement.

The 50,000 figure includes education workers such as teachers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, principals, board staff, occasional staff and custodians, who are unvaccinated or won’t disclose their status.

More than 85 per cent of education staff are fully vaccinated, while the remaining approximately 15 per cent have attested to not being fully vaccinated, including having medical exemptions, or haven’t said either way.

Green party leader Mike Schreiner says an 80 per cent vaccination rate is not good enough when children under 12 can’t be vaccinated themselves.

Some school boards, such as the Toronto District School Board, have enacted tougher policies that include possible termination.

Premier Doug Ford has said he wants all front-line healthcare workers to be vaccinated, but he has not yet made a decision on whether to mandate shots for them.

Currently, health and education workers in Ontario must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested regularly.

Another sector, the Toronto police force, recently announced that officers who don’t disclose their vaccination status by November 30 will be deemed “unable to perform their duties” and will be forced to sit on the sidelines without collecting a paycheque.

TPS says to date, 90 per cent of members have disclosed their status.

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