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Sunday, September 26, 2021

COVID-19 vaccines to be mandatory for federal public service, most air and rail travellers

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OTTAWA — The federal government intends to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory across the federal public service, and will require that commercial air, train and cruise ship passengers be fully vaccinated no later than October.

In a news conference on Friday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said they expect Crown corporations and federally regulated agencies such as the Bank of Canada and Canada Post to follow suit.

“After months and months of deploying these vaccines literally into millions of Canadian arms, we see how effective they are. We also see what other workplaces and other public service agencies around the world have done,” said LeBlanc. “It is very much a continuation of our government’s efforts to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to protect the health and safety of Canadians.”

The ministers also noted that beyond passengers, it will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation space to be fully immunized against the virus.

“We have seen how devastating COVID-19 has been to our transportation and tourism sectors. We must protect the hard-won gains made by Canadians. Canadians deserve to feel condident when traveling that the environment around them is safe,” Alghabra said. “We need to regain public confidence in travel.”

He said Ottawa will work closely with stakeholders, operators, and bargaining agents, to develop “a measured and practical approach” to requiring vaccines in these sectors by the fall.

Until now, the government has largely left decisions about proof of vaccination, and whether it should be mandatory, up to the provinces.

Earlier this week, LeBlanc, Alghabra and Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino provided an update on plans to give Canadians vaccination passports for international travel, noting some form of documentation should be ready by the fall.

Alghabra said accommodations such as enhanced testing and screening will be made for those who can’t be vaccinated.

Asked what will happen to those employees in the public service who refuse vaccination for other reasons, Alghabra said they don’t expect much pushback.

“My sense is that public servants are supporting and applauding this commitment and they all want to be sure they have a safe workplace. Of course, there will be some requirements for accommodation based on legitimate reasons and those will be worked out,” he said.

LeBlanc added that the government is trying to “lead by example,” as the largest Canadian employer, and hopes the move will encourage other industries to do the same.

“The Government of Canada has a large workforce and a large reach to help in the fight against COVID-19. It is both our opportunity but also our duty to lead by example,” he said.

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