On June 14, 2022, the Government of Canada announced that it would suspend vaccination requirements for domestic travelers, certain federally regulated workers, and federal public service employees, effective June 20, 2022. In support of this measure, the government has cited the successful vaccination campaign and low COVID-19 case counts.
Below is a brief overview of the key changes effective as of June 20, 2022.
Air, Rail, and Marine Transportation Sectors
Employers operating in federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors have been required to impose mandatory vaccination policies since October 30, 2021.
Based on the recent announcement, employers in these sectors will no longer need to maintain mandatory vaccination policies for their employees. However, the government’s announcement does not go so far as to require that employers suspend their vaccination policies. In other words, some employers may still choose to keep their policies in effect at this time.
There will no longer be a vaccination requirement for boarding planes and trains within Canada, meaning that unvaccinated persons will be permitted to travel domestically. It is anticipated that lifting this requirement will reduce bottlenecks causing long lines that impact travel. Vaccination requirements for passengers and crews of cruise ships will continue to remain in effect, however. Accordingly, cruise ship operators will be required to maintain their COVID-19 vaccination requirements for both passengers and crew.
Vaccination requirements for most foreign nationals entering Canada from abroad will remain in place. Vaccination also remains a requirement for entry into Canada for most non-Canadians. The vaccine mandate suspension will not affect masking requirements and other public health measures.
When the Government of Canada implemented vaccination mandates, it made clear that as the largest employer in the country it expected its mandates to encourage other employers and industries to establish similar requirements, with the hope that such mandates would become widespread throughout the country. In turn, employers across Canada took the opportunity to review their policies and consider next steps. The same opportunity exists now. With COVID-19 cases decreasing and workplaces gradually opening up, employers may want to examine their policies and practices in light of the vaccine mandate suspension to ensure they are reopening at an optimal pace.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.
Kshemani Constantinescu is a law student, currently participating in the summer associate program in the Toronto office of Ogletree Deakins.