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Friday, September 24, 2021

With no government directive, businesses face backlash on vaccine status

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TORONTO — Without clear directive from governments, businesses have to decide whether to make vaccines mandatory for employees and patrons, a decision they say leaves them vulnerable to attacks from anti-vaxxers.

For the first time since 2019, live music will be back at Ottawa’s Escapade Festival in September. However, guests must be fully vaccinated to attend.

By making vaccines mandatory, Ali Shafaee, director of the Escapade Music Festival, told CTV National News organizers are trying to protect patrons.

“We’re not trying to make this debate on whether someone should get vaccinated or not,” Shafaee said. “We’re just trying to plan a safe event for 2021 and we feel that this is the best way of doing it.”

However, the mandating of doses has become a difficult conversation that more businesses are having to weigh in on as they try to reopen.

Staff at the People’s Pint Brewing Company in Toronto voluntarily got vaccinated against COVID-19, posting a proud photo on social media to celebrate the occasion.

While the shots were a choice for staff, the photo was met with negative reviews and online threats from a small but vocal minority of anti-vaxxers.

Doug Appeldoorn, the brewery’s owner, said the negative reaction was unexpected.

“That was the hardest thing to kind of combat,” Appeldoorn said.

He recommends other businesses do what they “feel is right” when it comes to making their vaccine status public.

“Don’t worry too much about the negativity because even though it’s vocal, it is a very small minority of people,” Appeldoorn said. “The vast majority of people support this and will support your business for doing it.”

The brewery was also listed on a website to help guide virus conscious shoppers to stores and restaurants where staff had been vaccinated. The site was met with swift backlash online from anti-vaxxers and was subsequently forced to shut down.

But the criticism also goes the other way.

Last week, an unvaccinated server in Drayton, Ont. said she was targeted and shortchanged on a tip because of her vaccine status.

“The fact that he’s basing my tip off of the vaccination, not on the service provided, is really upsetting to me,” server Brooke Rew told CTV Kitchener.

To help navigate the divisive discussion, Ontario’s science table recommended the use of vaccine certificates on Wednesday, similar to those already in use in Europe to easily prove one’s vaccination status.

Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of Ontario’s science advisory table, said at a press briefing that proof of vaccines is “inevitable” for the province to return to normal.

“Nobody wants to start to restrict again more. The only way to deal with this is to make a distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated unfortunately,” Juni said.

Should Canada experience a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, Juni said vaccine certificates would help in keeping the society and the economy open while reducing the risk of contributing to further outbreaks.

“Rather than asking whether vaccines certificates actually should be considered, it’s probably more appropriate to ask whether they can be evaluated,” he said.

A new poll from the Angus Reid Institute reports that nearly 60 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe proof of vaccination should be mandatory in public places including restaurants, shopping malls, theatres and offices.

Despite the controversy, Ottawa-based employment lawyer Paul Champ says rules around vaccinations are fair game.

“There’s obviously a lot of competing rights and interests here, but an employer’s obligation or their interest here is to maintain a safe and healthy workplace,” Champ said.

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