BY LUCAS CASALETTO AND MARK DOUGLAS
August 24, 2021
The union representing over 8,000 Toronto police officers has opposed a policy brought forward by the Toronto Police Service (TPS) on Tuesday to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all members.
TPS says it “has an obligation to ensure a safe workplace for members and the public,” adding that vaccinations have been “a primary commitment for the service, as it has been throughout the pandemic.”
Officers and staff are required to reveal and provide proof of vaccination status by September 13.
“The safety of our members, our workplaces, and the public is of utmost importance to us. Our members will be required to be fully vaccinated to protect each other and the communities we serve,” TPS Chief James Ramer said in a statement.
The service noted that the vaccine policy would adhere to accommodations required under the human rights code. It did not immediately say what would happen to those who refuse to adhere to the policy.
The force said it would maintain public health measures such as masks and social distancing, among other precautions. Spokeswoman Allison Sparkes said there could be exemptions made under the code for documented medical or religious reasons.
“The specifics of our policy and its implementation are currently in development,” she said in a statement.
In a separate statement, the Toronto Police Association (TPA) rejected the mandatory vaccination system approved by Ramer.
#BREAKING Toronto Police Service announces mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for officers, both uniformed and civilian. Proof of vaccination status due Sept. 13; exceptions will be made as per Human Rights Code. @680NEWS pic.twitter.com/LQSZ6i34TL
— Mark Douglas (@Douglas680NEWS) August 24, 2021
“This announcement, however preliminary, is missing critical details that are central to understanding the impacts, timelines, or potentially alternative options available to our members,” said association president Jon Reid.
“The TPA must make every effort to protect all of our members and therefore, does not support this mandatory vaccination announcement or mandatory disclosure.”
Reid says the announcement “has our full attention,” adding the TPA will work closely with “other impacted parties, unions, and associations to explore our collective options.”
The force’s vaccine policy follows a slate of announcements last week on stricter immunization requirements across several sectors, including health, education and public service jobs.
The provincial government said it would require many health and education workers to get vaccinated against the virus or take regular tests but stopped short of mandating the shots for workers in high-risk settings.
On Monday, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that Rogers Centre attendees would need to provide their vaccination status for home games as of September 13.
Mirvish Theatre and the Toronto International Film Festival introduced similar mandatory vaccination protocols ahead of their respective events.
In a more radical approach, the University Health Network (UHN) said last week that unvaccinated staff would be terminated after two weeks of being placed on unpaid leave if they refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Last Thursday, the City of Toronto said that its staff were expected to have received both COVID-19 shots by Oct. 30, although the mayor didn’t say what would happen to those who refused to meet that deadline.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) said employees, contractors and students would need to be vaccinated by Sept. 13, while Metrolinx – the Ontario transit agency serving much of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area – said it also plans to require staff to get vaccinated. However, final policy details, including consequences for unvaccinated workers, were still in the works.
Toronto’s top public health doctor has advised all employers in the city to develop immunization policies.
The city’s public health unit also published a resource guide for workplaces drafting their own policies and outlined minimum recommended standards. Those include requiring employees to show proof of vaccination or written proof from a doctor or nurse outlining a medical exemption.
The development of vaccine policies comes as Ontario’s daily COVID-19 infections have been trending upward, and the province’s top doctor has warned that it will be a “difficult fall.”
The province says slightly more than 82 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and just over 75 per cent have received two.
Ontario is reporting 486 new cases of COVID-19 today, most of them among people who are not fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says those account for 372 of the new cases, while 114 of the new infections are in people who are fully inoculated with two doses of a vaccine.