Public Health Measures for Airport Arrivals to Remain Until at Least October

The government announced that public health requirements for travellers arriving in Canada, including use of the ArriveCAN app, are expected to be in place until at least September 30, 2022.

“As we move into the next phase of our COVID-19 response, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over. We must continue to do all that we can to keep ourselves and others safe from the virus,” Jean-Yves Duclos, the minister of health, said in a news release.

The release also says the suspension of random COVID-19 testing for airport arrivals will be extended until mid-July.

The suspension started on June 11 and was set to expire on July 1. When it announced the suspension, the government said when testing returns they will no longer be done at airports. There’s also a suspension on the vaccine mandate for travellers, which started on June 20.

PHAC said it’s still working on moving tests out of airports and into stores, pharmacies and virtual appointments.

“Moving testing outside of airports will allow Canada to adjust to increased traveller volumes while still being able to monitor and quickly respond to new variants of concern, or changes to the epidemiological situation,” the release reads.

At a news conference earlier Wednesday at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government is working on the details. “We seem to be needing a little bit more time to address the logistics of moving it off the airport,” Alghabra said.

The PHAC news release says unvaccinated travellers are still required to go through a 14-day quarantine after arrival, with mandatory COVID-19 tests on day one and day eight. Random testing will continue to be in place at land border crossings, and travellers must still provide information through the ArriveCAN app within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada.

Source: CBC

Canada Has a Path to “Soft Landing,” Finance Minister Says

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada still has a path to a “soft landing,” where it could stabilize economically after the blow by the COVID-19 pandemic, without facing a severe recession that many fear, CBC News reported. Freeland in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live on June 26 said she has to strike a balance between helping people in Canada suffering from the effects of inflation and pursuing a policy of fiscal restraint, or risk making the cost of living problem worse.

She was open to further action on affordability issues but believes the measures already in place will help reduce the impact on Canadians, the report said. “I have to strike a balance. One is supporting Canadians with affordability challenges and the other is fiscal restraint, because I don’t want to make the Bank of Canada’s job harder than it already is,” the report quoted Freeland as saying.

When asked about Canada’s ability to weather global economic uncertainty, Freeland “maintained an upbeat tone,” saying that the “challenge is not over, but I truly believe that we’re going to get through this together,” according to the report. Freeland has earlier expressed confidence in the Bank of Canada’s ability to rein in surging inflation and keep price gains from becoming entrenched, but said there was no guarantee that the economy would avoid a recession.

Source: Reuters

Growing Number of Companies End Mandatory Vaccination as Covid-19 Restrictions Ease

A growing swath of Canadian companies are no longer requiring employees to be vaccinated to come to work as corporate policies ease in step with public health guidelines. Governments have been loosening COVID-19 restrictions, with Ottawa allowing airline and railway workers as well as passengers to climb on board without being jabbed as of June 20. Canada’s big banks and four largest accounting firms have all rolled back their corporate vaccine mandates for employees as they return to the office. The two biggest railways are doing likewise, as is Air Canada.

The country’s largest airline said in an email it is recalling nearly 600 employees – less than 2% of its staff – who were on unpaid leave for more than seven months due to a requirement that aviation workers be inoculated. Those returning to work will not be receiving compensation for their time away, said spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

Not all big employers are on board, however. Sun Life Financial Inc. said mandatory vaccination for tens of thousands of in-office workers remains in place for now. GM Canada and Stellantis Canada are continuing their mandates as well.

Mark Agnew, a senior vice-president at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says the trend toward dropping vaccine mandates marks a response to shifts in provincial and federal rules as well as growing comfort with shared indoor spaces. “The government has a genuine role to play in setting a tone that people will listen to,” he said, adding that many companies have liability and reputation top of mind.

Nixing such an arguably intrusive rule doesn’t rule out reimposing it should a seventh wave strike in the fall, said Kathleen Chevalier, an employment and labour lawyer at Stikeman Elliott. “Taking it away doesn’t necessarily, from a legal perspective, make it harder to bring it back if you have that underlying justification,” Chevalier said, citing worker health. “From an employee relations perspective, though, that might be a different kettle of fish.”

Some companies have caveats on their scrapped vaccine mandates. Ernst & Young Inc. employees must show evidence of full vaccination if requested by clients, a spokesperson said. PwC said it has an “an option of masked floors for people who are not comfortable” with too many uncovered faces.

The horizon for scrapping the policies has been a long one, with PwC Canada lifting the vaccine mandate for its 7,300 employees on April 13 and KPMG only following suit for its 8,700 workers this June.

Vaccine mandates prompted challenges from some unions over the past year, resulting in arbitration decisions that tended to favour the employer. In 2021, the Toronto District School Board ordered all employees who had direct contact with staff or students to be vaccinated, prompting grievances and outcry from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which argued for frequent testing and other measures instead.

Arbitrator William Kaplan determined that the policy did not infringe on Charter rights to security of the person. He also ruled that rapid antigen tests were not an appropriate substitute for full vaccination, which he deemed the most effective way of preventing transmission in schools. The vaccine mandate was dropped in March.

“This decision to place unvaccinated individuals on unpaid leave – is that a reasonable exercise of management’s discretion and rights in the workplace? Generally speaking, the answer to that has been yes,” Chevalier said.

The union representing Canadian autoworkers at Stellantis is currently in arbitration with the employer over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which led to hundreds being placed on unpaid leave and sparked grievances by Unifor locals at several Ontario assembly plants. The grievances were filed despite Unifor’s then-president Jerry Dias approving an identical vaccine mandate for office workers at union headquarters in November.

Fair treatment – or the perception of it – is another factor. Some might grumble over a rule that allows unvaccinated staff to work from home while those who rolled up their sleeve have to trudge into the office. “If Jim feels that Susan has gotten a special deal that he should have got, it can really make workplaces quite toxic,” Agnew said. “Employers are really mindful of those types of dynamics and making sure that everyone’s getting a fair shake and the rules are being applied consistently.”

Source: Ottawa Business Journal