Federal employees from core public services, along with air and rail workers and travellers, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the end of October, the federal government announced Oct. 6.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland made the announcement at a joint press conference updating the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Members of the public service who are not fully vaccinated or do not disclose their vaccination status by Oct. 29, will be placed on administrative leave without pay as early as Nov. 15,” Freeland said during the media event.
The new policy will impact over 267,000 employees of departments that fall under “core public administration” including the RCMP, Correctional Services of Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and many other federal services.
Ottawa is also interested in extending the vaccine mandates to federally regulated sectors.
“We are also directing Crown corporations and agencies to implement policies that mirror those we are announcing today. The Chief of Defence Staff will issue a directive mandating vaccination for the Canadian Armed Forces and we are working with employers in federally regulated workplaces,” Freeland added.
The vaccine mandate comes into effect immediately and applies to both full-time and part-time employees regardless of whether they are working from an office, home or stationed overseas.
Federal employees will have to provide an attestation of their vaccination status online that will be tracked and audited by designated departments, while managers can ask for proof of vaccination at any time.
Employees who fail to disclose their vaccination and testing status accurately may be punished with disciplinary action.
Those who have only received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given 10 weeks to get a second shot before they are put on unpaid leave and will not be allowed to resume work or have their pay reinstated until they are fully vaccinated, or when the mandate is lifted.
Exemptions to vaccination are only given to those with valid medical reasons, religion or “any other prohibited ground of discrimination” protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act, the policy states.
Air and Train Travel Within Canada
Trudeau announced a similar vaccine mandate for domestic travel by plane and rail.
“By the end of October, everyone 12 or older on a plane or train within Canada should be fully vaccinated,” he said during the press conference.
The prime minister noted that there will be a short transition to allow for unvaccinated travellers to show a negative COVID-19 test but after Nov. 30, “testing will no longer be an option before boarding.”
Any exemptions will only be “a few extremely narrow exceptions like a valid medical condition.”
“For the vast, vast majority of people, the rules are very simple: to travel, you’ve got to be vaccinated,” he said.
The government is also working with airport businesses and airline and railway companies to develop their own mandatory vaccine policies by the end of October. Anyone wishing to travel by plane or train by then must have received a second dose of a Health Canada-approved vaccine at least 14 days before their departure.
With files from The Canadian Press