CALGARY — Canadians who want to travel via air, rail or boat this fall must now be fully vaccinated by the end of October, according to the latest mandate by the federal government.
In a statement to CTV News, The Calgary Airport Authority welcomed the announcement and says it is continuing to obtain additional information.
“We’re in the process of reviewing the details of the announcement and look forward to increased guidance from the Government of Canada,” said Kawal Mahendru, Manager of Brand and Content Communications with the Calgary Airport Authority.
“Our approach will include a review and engagement with all stakeholders impacted by the announcement. The health and safety of our employees and guests remains our top priority as Canadians plan to return to travel.
Calgary-based airline Westjet followed suit with a similar response, nothing that it will continue to partner in Canada’s vaccination rollout.
“Vaccinations are the most effective way to ensure the safety of our guests and employees, while curbing the spread of COVID-19,” said Mark Porter, WestJet Executive Vice-President, People and Culture.
“We are seeking additional detail from the federal government on the requirement and are committed to working together to ensure the successful implementation of the policy by late October.”
WestJet currently has an active workforce of about 6,000 employees, while 4,000 remain inactive or furloughed.
The airline adds that it will adhere to the requirement for all domestic travellers to be fully vaccinated or tested prior to departure. It will also advocate for rapid antigen testing as an acceptable, accessible and affordable alternative for unvaccinated travellers.
TRAVELLERS REACT TO VACCINE MANDATE
The vaccine mandate is now encouraging other travellers who haven not yet received a vaccine to get immunized as soon as possible.
That’s the case for Muna Khalif who was travelling with her children Friday at the Calgary International Airport.
“It’s safer for everyone,” she said
“I want to get one now before school starts especially for my kids and it will make me feel safer when travelling.”
Others like Mandy Hagen agree that vaccinations are important, as long as everyone has the opportunity to get one and is treated fairly.
“I would support that as long as there are exceptions for people with medical conditions which I know are quite rare,” she said.
“I feel relatively safe, but I would feel safer if I knew everyone was vaccinated.”
Of course, vaccination is still a choice in Canada and not legally required. The idea of mandatory vaccine passports for travel has sparked anger amongst those who believe this is a human rights issue.
“But what about my rights?” said Juan Ostaudelfaont, who was travelling with his family on Friday.
“I think it’s a safe way to do things during this pandemic, I think it’s absolutely necessary and I would feel safer. “It’s the rights for everybody not just one and everybody needs to be safe.”
UCP GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
CTV News reached out to the Alberta government for a response on the latest announcement from the federal government to mandate vaccines for travel and was sent the following statement.
“This is a matter of federal jurisdiction,” read a brief statement from Premier Kenney’s Press Secretary, Jerrica Goodwin.
“Albertans have access to their personal vaccination status via https://myhealth.alberta.ca”
The statement did not openly criticize the federal government, but Kenney’s office has previously criticized mandatory vaccinations.
In July, he told reporters that his government would not accept or facilitate vaccine passports and that it believed they would in principle, “contravene the Health Information Act and also possibly the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”
Kenney also previously said he would speak up if the federal government attempted to bring in vaccine passports.
FEDS ENCOURAGE MANDATORY VACCINATIONS FOR CROWN CORPORATIONS
In a news conference on Friday, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said they expect Crown corporations and federally-regulated agencies such as the Bank of Canada and Canada Post to follow suit.
“After months and months of deploying these vaccines literally into millions of Canadians arms, we see how effective they are,” said Leblanc.
Beyond passengers, the government also announced it will require employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation space to be fully immunized by the virus.
Accommodations such as enhanced testing and screening will be made for those who can’t be vaccinated.
When asked what will happen to employees who refuse vaccination for other reasons, Alghabra says he doesn’t expect much pushback.
“My sense is that public servants are supporting and applauding this commitment and they all want to be sure they have a safe workplace. Of course, there will be some requirements for accommodation based on legitimate reasons and those will be worked out,” he said.
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