Starting on October 30, federal workers as well as those employed in air, rail and marine transportation sectors must be fully vaccinated or they will be put on leave without pay as early as November 15.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined the details of the new mandate on Wednesday.
“Vaccines are the most effective tool against COVID-19, and countless Canadians – including many public servants – have already done their part and gotten their shots. But no one is safe until everyone is safe,” said Trudeau. “We have enough doses in Canada for every person to be fully vaccinated across the country, so I encourage all Canadians who haven’t been vaccinated to book their shot today. Together, we will finish the fight against COVID-19.”
There will be exemptions made for certified medical contraindications as well as for religious reasons. These accommodations will only be granted under certain parameters, including providing documented proof of the requirement for the exemption.
The “exemptions will be extremely limited and be onerous to obtain”, said Trudeau.
The new vaccination mandate will apply whether employees work remotely or from the office, and if they work outside of Canada. It also applies to the RCMP.
As of October 30, all travellers ages 12 and older on flights leaving Canadian airports and people travelling on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains must be fully vaccinated in order to board.
To qualify as a “fully vaccinated traveller,” a person must have received a full series of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine i.e. Pfizer, Modern, AstraZeneca of Johnson & Johnson. A combination of approved shots is also acceptable — with the last dose having been administered at least 14 days prior to the day of travel. There will be a “short transition phase,” that will allow travellers to show a negative COVID-19 molecular test result instead of proof of vaccination up until November 30, Trudeau said at the press briefing.
Marine passengers on non-essential passenger vessels like cruise ships must also complete the vaccination series before travelling. The government is working with industry and key partners to put a strict vaccine requirement in place for cruise ships before the resumption of the 2022 cruise season.
The new mandate also requires any worker—including at retail or hospitality establishments in restricted sections of airports— or passengers boarding any domestic flights, or interprovincial trains or cruise ships will have to provide proof of vaccination. There will be limited exemptions for Indigenous communities that require fly-in services like medical care.
While 88 per cent of the eligible Canadian population has had at least one shot, Trudeau said more people need to roll up their sleeves at a time when vaccine supply is plentiful and case counts are on the rise.
Trudeau also said the government is almost done with its vaccine passport for international travel, and will cover the costs for provinces that roll out proof-of-vaccination programs.
The government is also working on legislation to make it a criminal offence to threaten or harass health-care workers.