26 September 2023

CANADA: Fate of vaccine mandate in balance

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The Canadian Federal Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer is leading a review into the six-month-old COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the outcome of which will likely decide the timing and pace of return-to-office plans for the nation’s Public Servants

The review is seeking input from unions and other stakeholders, but a decision will be based on the advice of public health officials. Its results will be given to President of the Treasury Board, Mona Fortier.

Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam said public health officials were at a “very important juncture” in reviewing COVID-19 policies such as mandates, which are shifting from “an emphasis on requirements to recommendations”.

Opposition MPs have repeatedly pressed Dr Tam (pictured) and Minister for Health, Jean-Yves Duclos on when mandates for travellers and Public Servants will be lifted.

Dr Tam said the situation was unstable because of surges caused by the latest Omicron variant. She said Canada was taking a phased approach and the lifting of mandates must be closely watched.

“I think this is just about waiting to see what happens with this situation, ensuring the Provinces are still able to cope as they relax measures. They are just doing that at the moment and (with) that observation, the Federal Government makes a decision,” Dr Tam said.

Co-chair of the National Joint Council, a joint union and management committee, Dany Richard said the review was a political hot potato for the Government.

“The factors to consider are many, including the risk of lifting the mandate too soon or appearing to be capitulating to the pressure of the February convoy protests,” Mr Richard said.

“They might play it by ear, extend for three months, but if they remove it, we’ll have people saying: ‘Hey, I don’t feel comfortable returning to work’ knowing they’ll be working with someone who is not vaccinated.”

Last October, the Government introduced a vaccination policy requiring all Public Servants to prove they were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face unpaid leave.

Today, more than 98 per cent of Public Servants are fully vaccinated.

Ottawa, 25 March 2022

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