Senior federal officials were told in the spring that the government could make it mandatory for all workers across Canada to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the Canadian Press reports.
Internal documents obtained by the Canadian Press using the Access to Information law say that the federal government could consider making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory as "a national interest item."
The Trudeau Liberals previously announced mandatory vaccination for federal employees and those working in federally regulated industries, such as transportation, banks and telecommunications companies. While those workers account for less than one-tenth of all workers in Canada, the remainder are left subject to provincial labour laws.
Although public health remains under the jurisdiction of individual provinces and territories, the internal documents advise that the federal government could assume the power to mandate COVID-19 vaccines under the pretext of a national COVID-19 emergency. The next step would be to either work with provinces and territories to develop a set of guidelines, or simply develop their own.
According to Martha Jackman, a constitutional law expert from the University of Ottawa, the federal government can impose upon a provincial jurisdiction during an emergency, and courts would likely be deferential to such action during the pandemic. She said:
“It would be fair to say that an exercise of federal power in relation to the pandemic or vaccines would likely also pass muster. It’s not a question of scope across constitutional authority with COVID-19, it is a question of political will.”
In the spring, federal labour officials told employers that they wouldn’t “seek compliance” on any recommendations from public health officials related to vaccinations, with the documents noting that the Canada Labour Code is silent on vaccine requirements.
“This position would only change should these vaccines be made mandatory under the law,” the documents say. The documents also suggest that challenges by workers against such a policy would be ineffectual because of how safe the COVID-19 vaccines are purported to be.
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