Nearly a year after a mandatory COVID-19 immunization policy was introduced for the Canadian Armed Forces, 299 members have been kicked out of the military for refusing to be vaccinated.
In October 2021, a Chief of Defense Staff policy on COVID-19 vaccinations went into effect, making two doses of a vaccine a requirement for enrollment or work in the Canadian Armed Forces. The CDS gave CAF members until the end of November to get vaccinated or face corrective action, including a possible dismissal.
In addition to the 299 military personnel who were asked to leave the armed forces, another 108 members of the regular armed forces called for voluntary withdrawal by September 13, citing mandatory vaccination policies as the main reason for their dismissal. The departures account for about 0.56 percent of the current approximately 71,500 members of the Canadian armed forces.
In a statement, the military says mandatory vaccination is an institutional decision made to “ensure operational readiness.”
“The CAF needs to take a more operational, last resort approach compared to other federal agencies,” a spokesman for the Canadian Armed Forces 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 locations with limited or no access to specialized medical care, the CAF has more stringent requirements for enforcing health safeguards to protect operational readiness personnel.”
The original directive issued to the force said the policy will remain in effect “until sufficient widespread immunity is achieved in the general Canadian population.” The latest data shows that 82.08 percent of Canada’s total population has received at least two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine and 16.17 percent of the population has completed their primary care or received an additional dose in the past six months.
In June, the Canadian government suspended its mandatory vaccination policy for federal employees, including civilians working for the Department of Defense. The change meant civil servants who had previously been placed on administrative leave without pay because of vaccination policy were allowed to return to work on full pay. Then Ottawa announced this week that remaining border measures, including requiring all travelers to be vaccinated, along with other COVID-19 measures, were dropped starting October 1.
The federal government continues to encourage Canadians to get vaccinated, saying it’s the best way to protect against the disease.
However, the policy for those currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces has not changed.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and shadow secretary for health Michael Barrett have both challenged the mandate.
“I think it’s important that the operational needs of the Canadian Forces need to be balanced,” Barrett said, adding that there are different immunization requirements as a condition of employment in the military than in other jobs. “If there’s a specific operational requirement, that’s one thing, but I think it just needs to be eliminated as a condition of their employment, like anyone who works for the federal government.”
Trudeau still adheres to his discriminatory and unscientific vaccination mandates for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Many of the men and women who choose to fight to defend our liberties are not even free themselves to serve their country.
End ALL COVID vaccine mandates now. pic.twitter.com/S2KwSmSxwd
— Pierre Poilievre (@PierrePoilievre) September 28, 2022
A number of military personnel have attempted to challenge the mandate in court, but none have been successful.
When asked why the policy hasn’t changed and whether the CAF intends to end its vaccination mandate, a military spokesman says decisions are based on “operational needs and imperatives”.
“This is an institutional decision made to protect members of the CAF and Defense Team, ensure operational readiness, and demonstrate good governance to Canada and Canadians through the Defense Team’s response to the pandemic,” a spokesman wrote in a statement adding that the CAF follows the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization on vaccines and booster shots.
The Military Ombudsman has said there is no problem with compulsory vaccination for the armed forces or the way it is being enforced. In fact, the Office of the Military Ombudsman told CTV News that it had received just 10 complaints from currently active members about the requirement. In these cases, according to the Office of the Military Ombudsman, no unfairness was found in the application of the armed forces’ policy.
With files from The Canadian Press