Saint John's new COVID-19 vaccine policy won't automatically apply to its police force.
This week, Saint John city councillors approved a motion to develop a policy making it mandatory for employees to show proof of vaccination if they want to avoid regular testing and constant masking.
The motion says the city manager will finalize the policy by Sept. 20 and it would apply to all its employees. The city's website says Saint John employs about 800 people, including Saint John police, but the chair of the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners says the board is technically the employer of police.
"City policies do not automatically apply," Edward Keyes said in an email.
The commission reviews city policies and the possible implications, he said.
Keyes said the commission will be reviewing the policy and discussing it with chief of police Robert Bruce at its meeting next week.
Police, firefighter reactions
The city's fire department is not in the same situation. Brad Lanigan, president of the Saint John Firefighters Association IAFF Local 771, said the policy will directly apply to firefighters who are employed by the city.
He said he hasn't heard from many firefighters about the policy except that it wasn't a surprise.
"Our job surrounds dealing with the public," Lanigan said. "So we're looking to be supportive and work with to figure out whatever way we can to, you know, look after our members and the public when we're doing it."
Duane Squires, the president of the Saint John Police Association, said he's heard from some members who are concerned about the policy's impact on their personal freedom.
"Some of our members have brought it to our attention or brought their point of view to us," he said. "But really it's hard to talk about the policy because we haven't seen it, haven't read it and ... I'm not sure which avenue the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners is going to take either."
Squires said the union doesn't have an official position yet because the commission hasn't addressed the policy.
Last week, the City of Fredericton announced a mandatory vaccination and testing policy for its employees.
Municipal employees will either have to provide proof they are fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test result twice weekly and wear a mask while at work. Vaccination will also be a condition of employment for new hires, and is expected to come into effect Sept. 17.
The City of Moncton has not made a decision about a vaccine policy.
The provincial and federal governments have also implemented vaccine policies for their employees, including health-care workers and public servants.