Canadian News Sep 29, 2021 5:35 PM EST

RCMP union supports unvaccinated officers, will 'defy' federal vaccine mandate for public service

When the mandatory vaccination policy for the federal public service is in place, the union will maintain their support for unvaccinated members would not waver.

RCMP union supports unvaccinated officers, will 'defy' federal vaccine mandate for public service
Alex Anas Ahmed Calgary, AB

In an email to its members, the RCMP's union declared their support for RCMP officers who refuse the COVID vaccination. When the mandatory vaccination policy for the federal public service is in place, the union will maintain their support for unvaccinated members would not waver.

The September 23 email, obtained by the CBC, reads, "The [National Police Federation] supports a member's right to choose to be vaccinated or not."

"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.

"We're unequivocal that civil servants must be vaccinated. If anyone doesn't have a legitimate medical reason for not getting fully vaccinated — or chooses not to get vaccinated — there will be consequences," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shortly before he dropped the writ.

The Trudeau Liberals announced it would mandate COVID vaccines for federal employees and eligible Canadians travelling by plane, train or ship.

Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra said, "Vaccine requirements in the transportation sector will help protect the safety of employees, their families, passengers, their communities and all Canadians. And more broadly, it will hasten Canada's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."

Alghabra said the Trudeau Liberals are seeking practical ways to require vaccines "as quickly as possible," adding the policy could take effect as soon as October.

"First off, we're going to ensure that the federal public service is vaccinated. There is a clear requirement of vaccination for anyone who works for the federal government," he said Tuesday. "Second, we're going to make sure, in the coming weeks, that anyone 12 or older who wants to get on a plane or a train be fully vaccinated."

"There is a broad range of reasons why someone might not get vaccinated. I'm worried about creating undesirable effects in our community," added Trudeau.

Though unclear on what precisely those "consequences" are, Trudeau said they would affect the RCMP's rank and file officers, posing the possibility of a workplace shortage in the police service.

Genevieve Sicard, an RCMP spokesperson, said they are still hashing out the finer details of its vaccination policy alongside its union and other relevant stakeholders.

"Details will be communicated in the days and weeks to come," she said in an email to the CBC.

The NPF email said its union sought legal counsel on the RCMP's rationale for collecting employees' vaccination status, concluding the RCMP's reasoning is sound, in part, for "duties of public safety" reasons.

The union advised members to disclose their vaccination status only to the RCMP's health services wing and not a supervisor or manager.

But according to the federal Privacy Commissioner, compulsory disclosure of personal medical information to access public services is a breach of the Privacy Act.

Alghabra did not explain whether the Trudeau Liberals would need a cabinet order to bypass the law.

"We will be working with employers on defining the new regulatory framework to ensure all employees and a number of travellers will be vaccinated by no later than the end of October," he said.

More than six million eligible Canadians have declined the COVID vaccine, which Alghabra noted: "is going to require a lot of discussions."

They have yet to disclose the legal text of the regulations. "Vaccine requirements will extend to certain travellers," said Alghabra.

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