OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that he’s considering whether to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for federal employees.
Speaking alongside Quebec Premier Francois Legault, who announced his province would be instituting a vaccine passport amid concerns over rising case counts, the prime minister said he’s also looking at whether new requirements to either require or encourage vaccination would be necessary in federal workplaces or in federally-regulated industries such as banking, rail and air travel, and Parliament.
“I’ve asked the Clerk of the Privy Council, who is responsible for the federal public service, to look at mandatory vaccinations for federal employees. And we’re also looking at federally-regulated industries, to encourage or perhaps even to mandate vaccinations for those industries,” Trudeau said.
“It is time that the 80 per cent of Canadians who are doing their duty towards their neighbours, towards their loved ones by getting vaccinated, be able to get back more and more to normal, get back more and more to regular life. For that, those who are hesitant: It’s time to get your vaccine. They’re safe, they’re effective,” he continued.
Until now, Trudeau has largely left questions about requiring proof of vaccination to participate in certain aspects of society up to each province, though the federal government has moved forward with eased travel restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated.
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that he would be requiring all federal workers report their vaccination status and any worker who does not, will have to follow safety rules like mask-wearing and weekly testing.
“This is under discussion. I think the federal government being significant workforce is looking at how we best protect our workforce, as well as those around us,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Thursday.
“I can’t sort of preempt what the outcome of those discussions might be, but again, to emphasize that it’s really important for workplaces to — if we’re going to have people come back to work — that everyone should get the vaccine,” Tam said.
On Wednesday, Ontario announced that it would not force eligible students to be immunized against COVID-19 in order to be able to go back to school in-person.
Speaking about the return to classrooms generally, Trudeau said Thursday that two of his three children — Ella-Grace and Xavier — were eligible to be immunized and just received their second doses a few days ago, while his youngest Hadrien will be entering Grade 2 in September and won’t be able to be immunized.
“Yes, as a father, I worry,” Trudeau said in French, going on to encourage everyone who is eligible to do their part now and get vaccinated to help fight a possible new surge in infections.
“It is time, if you’ve been hesitant to get your first dose, to book your second dose, to move forward. The Delta variant is posing real challenges,” he said, noting that there are currently enough doses in the country to administer to anyone eligible who wants to be vaccinated.
His comments come amid ongoing concerns about an uptick in new COVID-19 infections that federal public health officials have cautioned could be the start of a “Delta-driven” fourth wave.
In light of this, Trudeau faced repeated questions about whether he is planning to launch the country into an election campaign in the coming days or weeks, which he continued to deflect, insisting his focus is on vaccinations and “delivering for Canadians… even as we move forward.”