At least 5 B.C. universities say disclosure of COVID-19 vaccination status is now required on campus

·3 min read
Simon Fraser University says unvaccinated students and staff and those who won't declare their vaccination status will be required to undergo rapid testing. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Simon Fraser University says unvaccinated students and staff and those who won't declare their vaccination status will be required to undergo rapid testing. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Students, staff and visitors at some of British Columbia's largest universities will be asked to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status as part of back-to-school campus safety plans.

The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, Thompson Rivers University and Emily Carr University all posted the news online.

UBC, SFU, UVic, TRU and Emily Carr said those who decline to declare, or who are unvaccinated, will have to undergo rapid testing for the coronavirus to prove they are negative.

UBC spokespeople had to clarify the school's position on mandatory testing on Friday, after a previous version of a letter posted by university president Santa Ono suggested the university would simply "provide" testing for the virus.

An email from the school's director of university affairs, Matthew Ramsay, confirmed that UBC "will require COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff, with exemptions provided for those who are vaccinated."

All schools say vaccination status disclosure will be conducted through a confidential process.

TRU president Brett Fairbairn said the university heard from many students about how much their learning has suffered during the pandemic and that they wanted back on campus.

"Achieving a return to campus life as we once knew it is a shared responsibility requiring the participation of all members of our university community," he said.

Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

The universities say the vaccination disclosure plan was developed with input from the Ministry of Advanced Education.

It is being rolled out in addition to previously announced public health orders requiring proof of vaccination for a wide range of public activities, including living in student housing.

"Alongside the B.C. vaccine card and mandatory indoor masking [Provincial Health Officer] orders from earlier this week, we believe this program will give students, staff and faculty the confidence needed for a full return to in-person campus activities," said UVic president Kevin Hall.

Earlier this week, provincial health officials said students will not have to be fully vaccinated to attend in-person university classes.

The four universities say more details about vaccination status disclosure and rapid-testing will be revealed in the coming days.

UNBC's different approach

The University of Northern British Columbia appears to be taking a different approach, stopping short of announcing that students will have to disclose their vaccination status.

On the UNBC website, president Geoff Payne said Friday he would work with union and student leadership teams to investigate the potential for voluntary vaccination status disclosure for employees only.

"We have been provided guidance by the provincial health officer regarding the province's proof-of-vaccination program, but we have also been granted the autonomy to investigate further measures designed to promote community health and safety," he said.

UVic law profs call for vaccine mandate

Meanwhile, 12 members of the UVic Faculty of Law have written a letter urging school administrators to quickly implement a vaccine mandate on campus.

"In our view, the University of Victoria has the authority to go beyond the minimum safety standards set by the provincial health officer to address the risks posed by COVID-19 on campus," they wrote.

"The government has identified no legal basis for assuming jurisdiction over on-campus health and safety matters, and no legal basis for prohibiting the university from adopting a vaccine mandate."

Fall classes are set to begin in less than two weeks at most universities.

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