OTTAWA, Oct. 6 (Reuters) – Canada will put unvaccinated federal employees on unpaid leave and require COVID-19 injections for air, rail and sea passengers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday as he unveiled one of the strictest vaccine mandate policies in the world.
Federal employees will be required to report their full immunization status through an online portal by October 29. Workers and travelers aged 12 and over on nationally operating trains, planes and shipping – which are regulated by the federal government – must prove they have been vaccinated by October 30.
“These travel measures, along with mandatory vaccination for federal employees, are among the strictest in the world,” Trudeau told reporters. “If you’ve done the right thing and got the vaccine, you deserve the freedom to be COVID-free. “
There are about 300,000 workers in the federal public service, plus 955,000 federally regulated workers, which represents about 8% of the full-time workforce in Canada, according to the Treasury Board, which manages the function. public.
The government’s new vaccine mandates were a fundamental commitment by Trudeau during his campaign for re-election last month. The Liberals returned to power in a hotly contested election, but failed to secure a majority.
Canada has fully immunized over 70% of its total population of some 38 million, but that includes children under 12 who currently cannot be vaccinated. Over 80% of the eligible population has been vaccinated.
Canada’s southern neighbor, the United States, said last month that most federal employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22, while federal contractors must be vaccinated by December 8. The US government is also drafting rules to require large employers to have their workers vaccinated or tested every week.
Some other countries have also requested vaccines from government employees. For example, Fiji in August forced officials to take leave if they were not vaccinated. If they were still not vaccinated by November, they would lose their jobs. Later this month, Italy will require proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection for all workers in the country.
During his re-election run, Trudeau has often faced anti-vaccine protesters, one of whom threw a handful of gravel at him during a campaign event last month. His main opponent, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, has opposed the vaccination warrants.
The tenure of federal employees will likely be challenged in court, said Daniel Lublin, a Toronto-based labor lawyer.
“There will be complaints,” Lublin said, noting that the unpaid leave could be challenged as an effective dismissal or an unfair dismissal.
Canada’s vaccine mandate for federal workers, first promised on Aug. 13, will be reassessed every six months and will remain in place until the policy is no longer needed, an official said.
Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are among those who need to be vaccinated, and the government has asked the chief of staff of the armed forces to require vaccines.
For travelers, a negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted as a replacement for proof of vaccination after November 30, officials said. Children under 12 who are not eligible for vaccination will be exempt from the travel mandate.
The government also said it was working with the industry to put in place a strict vaccine requirement for cruise ships before the 2022 cruise season resumes.
Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa, Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bill Berkrot
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