Some Canadians are going to great lengths to avoid mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, including one former public servant from the Outaouais who moved her family to Mexico.
"This fall I became very uncomfortable in my country. I no longer felt like I was an equal member of society," said Amélie Gervais in a French interview with Radio-Canada.
Gervais worked as a civilian member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 16 years before retiring on Oct. 2.
"When the COVID-19 vaccine came out, I started to research and I decided to wait. I just wanted to wait, but I found it was quickly imposed," she said.
Once vaccine passports were introduced in Quebec, Gervais said she "started looking at where in the world it would be good to live, where people could live without [a passport]."
She considered several places, including Costa Rica, but scratched that option when that country began enforcing a similar passport system.
In the end, Gervais, her husband and their three kids, ages four to nine, moved to Mexico on Oct. 26, just before the Oct. 30th cutoff, when the federal government began phasing in the need for a COVID-19 vaccine to travel by plane or train.
Gervais says she's homeschooling her two oldest children, with study breaks spent on the beach. She says she doesn't regret her decision and loves her new life.
"I cried. I get emotional just thinking about it. That pressure is gone," she said.
Most public servants vaccinated
Gervais is the exception in the federal public service, however.
The latest numbers from the government estimate that while more than 10,000 civil servants are not fully vaccinated, that's only around four per cent of all federal public servants.
The government says it does not yet know how many public servants are on unpaid leave because they won't get vaccinated. A total of 3,400 workers have applied for an exemption on religious or medical grounds, and so far the majority of them are still waiting for a decision.
"We are in the process of evaluating these requests because it is not a process that is done with a yes or a no," said Treasury Board president Mona Fortier.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada has questioned whether enough resources are being allocated to reviewing those requests.
"We are disappointed with the speed at which the government reacts to its own policies," said Stéphane Aubry, the national vice-president of the union, in French.
The vaccination policy is also being challenged in federal court by more than 200 public servants.
"There is a lot of stress, and we don't know if there is an expected return to work date," said Michael Bergman, one of the two lawyers representing those employees.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization, meanwhile, has said the currently approved mRNA vaccines are "highly efficacious in the short term" against COVID-19.
This fall, Moderna released real-world data showing its vaccine was 96 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization — even amid the more transmissible delta variant — and 87 per cent effective at preventing infection.