RCMP flip-flops on defying mandatory vaccine policy

The RCMP's union backtracked on its defiance towards the vaccination policy for its members. While they 'support' a Mountie's right to refuse the COVID vaccine, it warned officers of the consequences of that choice.

Alex Anas Ahmed Calgary AB

The RCMP's union flip-flopped on its defiance towards the policy of mandatory vaccination for its members. While they 'support' a Mountie's right to refuse the COVID vaccine, it warned officers of the consequences of that choice.

The National Police Federation (NPF) issued a new statement in response to the Trudeau Liberal's announcement that RCMP officers must get the jab by October 29 or risk unpaid leave, reported the CBC. The NPF previously emailed nearly 20,000 officers insisting they support a member's right to remain unvaccinated.

"As we have maintained throughout 2021, consistent with our duty of fair representation, the NPF will continue to support members' access to vaccines and their choice to be vaccinated or not," said union president Brian Sauve. "We also clarified to them the potential consequences of their decisions."

However, the September 23 email reads, "The [NPF] supports a member's right to choose to be vaccinated or not." The union claims, "We will assist and represent members individually with their choice and its possible employment consequences." Citing privacy concerns, a union spokesperson would not disclose how many members expressed their concerns regarding COVID vaccines.

"At this time, we expect that regular members and reservists who are able will take steps to get their vaccine by the deadline," said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Caroline Duval. "If a regular member is unwilling to be vaccinated and is placed on leave, the RCMP will take steps to ensure Canadians' safety is not impacted by deploying vaccinated regular members and reservists as required."

The RCMP's chief medical adviser Peter Clifford emailed a video message encouraging members to get vaccinated this week. "Think of it this way. As a police officer, you wear body armour because it could save your life if you get shot," he said in the publicly available video.

"It's like body armour or a seatbelt for your lungs. It's not a guarantee that you will never get sick, but if you do, it's the reason you'll survive," contends Clifford. But Sauve expressed his frustrations with the government's "engagement-by-notification" approach.

"The National Police Federation anticipated and deserved a more meaningful and authentic engagement on this policy with the employer, Treasury Board of Canada," he said. "We will continue to monitor the Treasury Board and the RCMP's implementation of this policy framework and will support our members, as needed and appropriate, on an individual basis."

According to internal documents, the Treasury Board said Wednesday they would not fire a federal employee under its vaccination policy. The Board would not comment on the documents, which also grant broad exemptions for workers who decline COVID shots on sincere beliefs "religious in nature" regardless of whether any religion recognizes them.

"Will an employee on leave without pay eventually have their employment terminated if they continue to be unwilling to be vaccinated?" asked the October 8 memo. "The current Policy On Vaccination does not consider termination of employment or a specific end date to leave without pay."

The Board memo entitled Managers' Toolkit For The Implementation Of The Policy On Covid-19 Vaccination For The Core Public Administration Including The RCMP was issued two days after cabinet claimed it would enforce compulsory vaccination. "Members of the public service who are not fully vaccinated or do not disclose their vaccination status by October 29 will be placed on administrative leave without pay as early as November 15," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

However, the memo grants unvaccinated employees wide latitude in 'disclosing their status' while keeping salary and benefits, including claiming a religious exemption even if their religion does not oppose immunization. "The manager must not challenge the validity of the belief itself," said Managers' Toolkit. "They must determine only if the employee sincerely holds the belief."


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