Trudeau sets timeline for broader vaccine mandate in Canada
Canada will make vaccinations mandatory for air and rail passengers by the end of October, and for federal government employees from October 29, including members of the military and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday.
“We’ve covered a lot of ground against COVID-19,” Trudeau told a news conference in the capital, Ottawa. “But our fight is not over.”
He said that government employees who are still not vaccinated and who do not have any verified medical exemption will be put on unpaid leave till November 15. The federal government estimates that more than 80 percent of its 300,450 civilian workers – more than 240,000 people – are already fully vaccinated. There are approximately 95,000 regular and reserve members in the military, and about 19,000 officers in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
“It’s too easy,” Trudeau said of the possibility that a large number of government employees could miss the November 15 deadline. “You need to be fully vaccinated if you want to continue working for the Canadian public service.”
This requirement does not apply to employees of the Canadian provincial and local governments.
Canada is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world – among people 12 or older, about 81 percent are fully vaccinated, and about 87 percent are at least partially vaccinated. Starting at age 12, everyone can receive Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and people 18 and older are also eligible for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Still, the country is passing through a fourth wave of the virus, with hotspots in several western regions: Alberta, where all coronavirus restrictions were lifted in June; Saskatchewan; and the sparsely populated North-Western region.
Mr Trudeau, a moderate, first announced plans to make vaccinations mandatory in August, giving little detail. Most surveys show overwhelming support among Canadians for compulsory vaccination.
But shortly after the prime minister’s snap election call – which proved in vain that the high approval rating for his pandemic performance would have earned him the majority of votes in the House of Commons that was rejected in 2019 – stalled the implementation of the mandate. During that election campaign, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole opposed compulsory vaccination for her party’s candidates as well.
Mr Trudeau confirmed during a news conference on Wednesday that the vaccine mandate for travel would apply to members of parliament. Vaccination rules for the House of Commons must be set by Parliament, not the government, but Mr Trudeau has mandated that his liberal members be vaccinated.
Some unions have challenged mandatory vaccination rules introduced by other levels of government. Earlier court decisions on other pandemic measures, however, suggest such rules would be difficult to reverse.
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