Visa Crunch

The debate over COVID-19 vaccination policies across Canadian universities for a safe return to the campus this fall

With the start of the new classroom year nearing and COVID-19 infection numbers increasing throughout Canada, most are wondering if post-secondary institutions could perhaps require staff and students to be jabbed in order to study on campus. Seneca College in the Greater Toronto Area was the country’s foremost post-secondary institution to impose mandatory vaccinations on its students. People with at least one dose will be allowed on campus, but there will be a time limit to get a second shot. “Our policy is that you have to be vaccinated to come on campus, whether you’re a student, whether you’re an employee, whether you’re a visitor,” David Agnew, president of Seneca College, said to CTV News.

Just five of Canada’s largest 15 research institutions (U15) will require immunizations for students living in residential buildings, according to surveys undertaken by Western University’s Health Ethics, Law, and Policy (HELP) Lab. Teachers and students who “engage in activities with a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission” will be required to be vaccinated at the University of Toronto, while student-athletes will be required at the University of Ottawa. Public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia, such as the University of British Columbia (UBC), are implementing the direction of the state government and provincial health agencies, who have not advised mandatory vaccinations.

“As you are aware, case numbers have recently begun to rise, and the highly contagious Delta variant is becoming more prevalent,” UBC president Santa J. Ono wrote in a letter on Thursday. “As a result, I strongly recommend that all members of the UBC community be fully vaccinated, before returning to campus.” Cases have been increasing steadily in the region, with B.C. On Friday, the hospital recorded more than 400 new cases, the single highest maximum as of May. The province introduced new prohibitions in the Central Okanagan region on Friday, which include limits on indoor eateries. According to Ono’s statement, the scenario is fluid, and impact studies are being conducted in real-time.

Including some exceptions, the federal government has decided to leave some provinces and territories in charge of developing their own protocols for evidence of vaccination or vaccine passports. In July, Ontario Premier Doug Ford dismissed the idea of a vaccine passport, saying in a statement on July 15 that “we’re not going to have a split society.” Quebec announced on Thursday that vaccine passports would be introduced so that those who have been inoculated can enter non-essential businesses. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether this would reach post-secondary institutions.

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