TORONTO — The Toronto police service said Tuesday that it will require all its members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – a move the union representing officers said it opposed.
The force said its vaccine policy would apply to both uniformed and civilian members, and all staff would need to provide proof of their immunization status by Sept. 13.
"The safety of our members, our workplaces and the public is of utmost importance to us. Our members will be required to be fully vaccinated to protect each other and the communities we serve," interim Police Chief James Ramer said in a statement.
The service noted that the vaccine policy would adhere to accommodations required under the human rights code. Spokeswoman Allison Sparkes said there could be exemptions made under the code for documented medical or religious reasons.
"The specifics of our policy and its implementation are currently in development," she said in a statement.
The Toronto Police Association, which represents nearly 8,000 uniformed and civilian members of the force, said it was opposed to the announcement.
"This announcement, however preliminary, is missing critical details that are central to understanding the impacts, timelines, or potentially alternative options available to our members," said association president Jon Reid.
"The TPA must make every effort to protect all of our members and therefore, does not support this mandatory vaccination announcement or mandatory disclosure."
The association said the policy was announced with no documentation, procedures or orders in place to support it and added that it would be working with affected parties to explore collective options.
The police force said it would maintain public health measures such as the use of masks and social distancing, among other precautions.
The service's vaccine policy follows a slate of announcements last week on stricter immunization requirements across several sectors, including health, education and public service jobs.
The provincial government said it would require many health and education workers to get vaccinated against the virus or take regular tests but stopped short of mandating the shots for workers in high-risk settings.
The City of Toronto said last Thursday that its staff were expected to have received both COVID-19 shots by Oct. 30, although the mayor didn't say what would happen to those who refused to meet that deadline.
The Toronto Transit Commission said employees, contractors and students would need to be vaccinated by Sept. 13 while Metrolinx – the Ontario transit agency serving much of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area – said it also plans to require staff to get vaccinated, although final details of the policy, including consequences for unvaccinated workers were still in the works.
Toronto's top public health doctor has advised all employers in the city to develop immunization policies.
The city's public health unit also published a resource guide for workplaces drafting their own policies and outlined minimum recommended standards. Those include requiring employees to show proof of vaccination or written proof from a doctor or nurse outlining a medical exemption.
The development of vaccine policies comes as Ontario's daily COVID-19 infections have been trending upward and the province's top doctor has warned that it will be a "difficult fall."
The province says slightly more than 82 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and just over 75 per cent have received two.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2021.
Elena De Luigi, The Canadian Press