COVID-19: Federal public servants face unpaid leave if unvaccinated, says government

Canadians 12 and older travelling via train or plane will also need to show proof of vaccination

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland | Government of Canada

Federal public servants not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 face the prospect of unpaid leave if they don’t get their jabs by October 29, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Wednesday.

Ottawa revealed in August — just prior to the 2021 federal election campaign — that federal workers and those employed in federally regulated industries such as banking and telecom would need to be vaccinated by this month.

The order will require workers — including those in the RCMP, Correctional Services of Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency — to show proof of vaccination by the end of the month or face unpaid leave as early as November 15.

Ottawa will start with what Freeland described as a “hard attestation” of one’s vaccination status, while verifications will come in the weeks to follow.

The deputy prime minister said the “tough actions” are meant to protect Canadians and accelerate the country’s economic recovery.

Crown corporations are also being directed to implement the same policies while acting Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre will be issuing orders requiring members of the Canadian Armed Forces to get vaccinated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced during the same briefing that Canadians 12 and older would need to show proof of vaccination if they wish to travel through the country via train or plane by the end of this month.

“Testing will no longer be an option before boarding,” he said.

“To travel, you’ve got to be vaccinated.”

The federal government is currently working with airlines to integrate proof of vaccination with the online booking process.

It’s not clear when that feature will be deployed. 

Trudeau said exemptions will only be made under a small number of circumstances, such as valid medical or religious reasons. 

On Tuesday, B.C. ordered 30,000 provincial public service workers to be vaccinated by November 22.

“Refusing to comply with the proof of vaccination policy by November 22 may lead to employment consequences up to and including termination,” the province stated in a Q&A document provided to bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, workers at assisted living and long-term care facilities will need to be vaccinated by October 12, and those hired between October 12 and 26 must have a single dose, with a second dose coming within 28 to 35 days after the first.

“We know vaccination rates are high, but in some places they are not high enough,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a Tuesday briefing.

The prime minister also acknowledged his holiday to Tofino on the country’s first-ever Truth and Reconciliation day was a mistake “and I regret it.”