Senate to impose mandatory vaccination policy for in-person attendance

·2 min read
An aerial view of the Senate building in downtown Ottawa. Senators entering the building will have to be fully vaccinated, though a rule for staff has not yet been established. (Christian Patry/Radio-Canada - image credit)
An aerial view of the Senate building in downtown Ottawa. Senators entering the building will have to be fully vaccinated, though a rule for staff has not yet been established. (Christian Patry/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Senators returning to Canada's upper house for in-person sittings will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Speaker George Furey announced today.

The rule goes into effect on Nov. 22, when Parliament resumes after breaking for the summer and the recent election.

"As has been the case since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health, safety and well-being of all parliamentary personnel remains of paramount importance to the Senate," Furey said in a media statement.

Unvaccinated senators with medical exemptions will be allowed to provide recent negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test results in lieu of vaccination.

The rule largely follows the mandate going into effect on Nov. 22 in the House of Commons. Returning MPs and anyone entering the premises will have to be fully vaccinated when they return to work next month.

The Senate has yet to determine if its staff members will also be covered by the vaccine mandate.

Furey said the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, the administrative body of the Senate, will meet "soon" to decide if the mandate will extend beyond senators themselves.

Most senators fully vaccinated

The Independent Senators Group — the largest body in the chamber, with 43 senators — says each of its members is fully vaccinated. The 13-member Canadian Senators Group says its members are also fully vaccinated.

The Progressive Senators Group, with 14 members, has told CBC News that its leadership team is fully vaccinated, but could not confirm the vaccination status of its entire membership.

The Conservative Party of Canada, which has 18 senators, has not confirmed the vaccination status of any of its members.

The Conservatives are the only federal party which officially has members in the Senate.

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has refused to say how many of his MPs are vaccinated, though he said all Conservative MPs entering the House of Commons will comply with the vaccine mandate.

The Senate used a hybrid attendance model during its last session which allowed some senators to attend virtually.

As with the House of Commons, it's not yet clear if the Senate will return to full capacity when it resumes.

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