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Many Ontario police services keeping COVID-19 vaccine mandates for now

Ontario police services that implemented mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies — under which some employees faced possible termination for not getting the shots — are sticking with the requirement for now.

The province has ended its vaccine certificate program for establishments such as restaurants, gyms and cinemas, and the chief medical officer of health has said he wants to lift provincially imposed workplace vaccine mandates for health and education, which require any unvaccinated employees to do regular testing.

Several large police forces such as Toronto and Ottawa required their rosters to get vaccinated.

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Toronto police placed more than 200 members who either refused to get vaccinated or refused to disclose their vaccination status on indefinite unpaid leave in November. A spokeswoman said that at this time the policy remains in place.

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Ottawa police put fewer than 10 unvaccinated officers and fewer than 10 unvaccinated civilian employees on unpaid leave when its policy took full effect Feb. 1. The force said there are no changes to its vaccine policy. Windsor Police said the same.

London police required members to get vaccinated, and if they refused, they were to be subject to reassignment, removal from active duties, an unpaid leave of absence or termination. There are no changes to its policy right now.

“As has been throughout the pandemic, it remains our goal to ensure the health and safety of all members of the LPS as well as the community we serve, in accordance with governing legislation and the advice and recommendations of public health authorities,” spokesman Scott Mandich said in a statement.

In Hamilton, police service members who refused to disclose their vaccination status had to undergo regular rapid testing, and anyone who didn’t comply with that was placed on unpaid leave.

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Spokesperson Jackie Penman said as of March 1, the testing requirement is dropped and those members are allowed to return. However, all new hires will be required to provide proof of vaccination status.

Joe Couto, spokesman for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said a lot of police services are reviewing their policies right now, and some may change as local public health units and municipalities change their own rules.

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“I think you’ll see in the next several weeks those policies will start to evolve,” he said.

“When we had to develop the policies we were faced with an unknown health and wellness threat…The goal of course was to keep our employees safe and also to ensure the safety of the public that we dealt with.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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