TORONTO — Canada’s largest banks are the latest industry to announce mandatory vaccine policies this week, following the government’s announcement that federally regulated industries will require staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Ottawa’s vaccine mandate has been met with mixed reviews by the public, with some feeling that workplace safety is better served if all employees are vaccinated and others decrying the perceived infringement on personal rights.
Others were concerned about accommodations provided for those who cannot get a COVID-19 vaccine due to medical reasons.
Vaccine mandates have also become a wedge issue in the federal election, with candidates taking pot shots at each other on the subject while on the campaign trail.
As of Friday morning, 73.5 per cent of Canada’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated, with more than 52 million doses administered across the country.
On Thursday, CTVNews.ca asked Canadians whether their workplace had mandated COVID-19 vaccinations and to reach out if they felt they were being forced to get the jab.
The responses were emailed to CTVNews.ca and not all have been independently verified, though some respondents were contacted for additional details.
The responses have been edited for length, clarity and brevity.
Tonya Hilts, who says she works for Canada Post in Ontario, told CTVNews.ca in an email that she does not want to take the vaccine but that she is fully prepared to “rapid test every day” and wear a mask.
“I have worked throughout this entire pandemic and through half of it I had no PPE, [with] society thanking us for our dedication and sacrifice while they got to stay at home still earning a living,” Hilts wrote. “Now I am being called selfish, ignorant, because I refuse [the vaccine]. I am not an anti-vaxxer I just do not trust it, I resent being told I have no rights to my own body.”
Andrew Bukta of Dorchester Ont., described a situation facing his mother, a critical care unit (CCU) nurse of 25 years working at the Victoria Hospital in London, Ont.
“Recent talks about mandating vaccines for federal employees has put the future of her job in question,” Bukta wrote. “She has witnessed unimaginable scenes not many people would be able to handle.”
Bukta said his mother had “chosen based on her judgment as a nurse” to opt out of taking the vaccine but said “that choice may cost her job,” saying it felt “as if we no longer have the ability to make choices for ourselves and our health.”
Bukta said his mother is pursuing a legal recourse.
Care aide Candace S., who works at a long-term care facility in Prince George B.C., said in an email to CTVNews.ca that she had been told that if she is not double-vaccinated by October 12, that she can no longer work at the facility.
“Of [sic] my own personal choices I do not wish to receive vaccination and will lose my job,” Lee wrote. “I have been in the healthcare industry for ten years… we have been told to wear our PPE during flu season and if there was an outbreak we are not allowed to work it [sic] I have always chosen that option and now wonder why it is no longer [available].”
Lee said she was “heartbroken” and scrambling to find help and another job outside of healthcare, an industry she “loved so much.”
Marcel, a public servant for 30 years from Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca that, while he is not “against vaccines in general,” he was shocked that the government would mandate vaccination.
“It seems like using the nuclear option to combat a few guys approaching in a truck,” Marcel wrote of the mandates.
“Unfortunately, I am not in a position where I can simply resign and take my pension.”
“The most troubling trend I am seeing lately is the villainization [sic] of unvaccinated individuals… this narrative is taking hold and I am very concerned by it,” he continued. “Most people in Nova Scotia have willingly followed all the public health guidelines and truly do care about their fellow citizens in the province.”
“This divisive talk is not helpful and is actually downright troubling,” Marcel said.
Vancouver-based flight attendant Melissa Senior told CTVNews.ca in an email that she was writing “on behalf of flight attendants who feel unsure, anxious and now violated of their rights” in light of Ottawa’s vaccine mandate request.
“We are now worried whether or not we will be able to feed our families and continue to enjoy a job we love,” Senior wrote. “We put our lives at risk every day to bring passengers home safely to their families…. We’ve also worked all throughout this pandemic to allow loved ones to see their family members who have fallen sick or have died because of this virus.”
Senior said flight attendants are facing what she called a “violation of our rights and freedoms” and vowed to “fight” the mandate.
Dale Tomasiewicz, a public servant from Outlook, Sask., and his wife (who he did not name in his email) who works for the University of Saskatchewan, said they are both required to be vaccinated by September 7.
“We both learned, within a half hour of each other, that our employers were imposing broad vaccine mandates last Friday – this was a crushing Friday the 13th for us to say the least,” Tomasiewicz wrote. “We are both well-informed about COVID-19 and follow the data etc. I have had on-going communications with my federal and provincial representatives (and recently my union) regarding the COVID-19 management and response measures since about last May, urging them to do the right things based on all the actual scientific facts.”
Tomasiewicz said he was not an “anti-vaxxer” nor a “conspiracy theorist,” but said he chose to make his decision “based on facts” and was disappointed by the “vilification of all those choosing not to be vaccinated.”