Nearly a year after a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy was put in place for the Canadian Armed Forces, 299 members have been kicked out of the military for refusing to get vaccinated.
In October 2021, a Chief of the Defense Staff directive on COVID-19 vaccinations came into effect, making two doses of a vaccine mandatory to enlist or work in the Canadian Armed Forces. The CDS has given CAF members until the end of November to get vaccinated or face corrective action, including possible dismissal.
In addition to the 299 service members asked to leave the forces, 108 other Regular Force members asked to leave voluntarily on September 13, citing the mandatory vaccination policy as the main reason for their release. Departures represent approximately 0.56% of the approximately 71,500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces currently in service.
In a statement, the military says the vaccine requirement is an institutional decision made to “ensure operational readiness”.
“The CAF must take a more operational approach as a force of last resort, relative to other federal departments,” a Canadian Armed Forces spokesperson said in a statement emailed to CTV News.
“As a force that must be ready at all times to conduct domestic and international military operations, sometimes in places where access to specialized medical care is limited or non-existent, the CAF has a stricter obligation to apply health protection measures to protect the operational readiness of personnel.”
The original directive issued to the force says the policy will remain in place “until sufficient blanket immunity is achieved in the general Canadian population.” The most recent data shows that 82.08% of the total Canadian population has received at least two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, and 16.17% of the population has completed primary services or received one. extra dose in the last six months.
In June, the Government of Canada suspended its mandatory vaccination policy for federal employees, including civilians working for the Department of National Defence. This change meant that civil servants previously placed on unpaid administrative leave due to the vaccination policy were allowed to return to work with full pay. Then, this week, Ottawa revealed that remaining border measures, including a requirement for proof of vaccination for all travelers, were being dropped alongside other COVID-19 measures starting Oct. 1.
The federal government continues to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated, saying it’s the best way to protect against the disease.
The policy for those currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, however, has not changed.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Shadow Health Minister Michael Barrett have both questioned the mandate.
“I think it’s important that the operational requirements of the Canadian Armed Forces are weighed,” Barrett said, adding that there are different vaccination requirements as a condition of employment in the military than in other workplaces. . “If there is a specific operational requirement, that’s one thing, but I think just as a condition of their employment, that, like anyone who works for the federal government, needs to be eliminated.”
A number of servicemen tried to challenge the warrant in court, but none were successful.
When asked why the policy had not changed and whether the CAF intended to end its vaccine mandate, an Army spokesperson said the decisions were based on ” operational requirements and imperatives”.
“This is a corporate decision made to protect CAF and Defense Team members, ensure operational readiness, and demonstrate responsible leadership to Canada and Canadians through the response of the military. ‘Pandemic Defense Team,’ a spokesperson wrote in a statement, adding that the CAF is following guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization on vaccines and boosters.
The military ombudsman said there was no problem with the force vaccination requirement or the way it is enforced. In fact, the military ombudsman’s office told CTV News that it has received only 10 complaints from currently serving members regarding this requirement. In these cases, says the military ombudsman’s office, they found no injustice in the application of force policy.
With files from The Canadian Press
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