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Columbia Shuswap Regional District implementing mandatory vaccination policy

Concern raised around potential loss of volunteer firefighters
A mandatory vaccination policy was passed unanimously at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board meeting on Nov. 18, 2021. (File photo)

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) has made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for the vast majority of those working under its jurisdiction.

At its Nov. 18 meeting, the CSRD’s board of directors unanimously supported CSRD staff’s recommendation to implement the COVID-19 vaccination policy they had been working on since October.

CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton said staff worked with legal counsel, other local governments and the province, and had discussions with its union, using that input to help form the policy.

The final draft of the policy states proof of being fully vaccinated will be required by all CSRD personnel as of Jan. 3, 2022. It applies to all CSRD employees and includes union and exempt employees, permanent, temporary, seasonal, casual, co-op and summer students, elected officials, paid on-call firefighters and emergency management volunteers.

One of the key elements to a COVID-19 vaccination policy, identified by staff, is having the ability to “accommodate for bona fide medical reasons as well as protected grounds under the BC Human Rights Code.”

“Should a CSRD personnel require an accommodation, those requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis and may require staff to review with Interior Health, medical professionals, or legal guidance, as necessary,” reads the report.

Hamilton said the CSRD is “not in the business of putting people on unpaid administrative leave,” and will look into exemptions in good faith.

Electoral Area B director David Brooks-Hill asked if a daily rapid test alternative had been looked into. Hamilton said it had not yet been researched but it could be looked into and the policy amended if necessary.

Electoral Area D director Rene Talbot asked for clarification regarding proof of vaccination for contractors such as arena managers and transfer station attendants.

CSRD Operations Manager Darcy Mooney explained the policy is meant to be for contractors who would be working indoors near CSRD staff, for example, janitorial services. CSRD board chair Kevin Flynn said he wanted to give full disclosure that staff is working on how to deal with outside contractors.

Talbot said he’d heard from the Silver Creek and Falkland fire departments and thinks a “significant” loss of volunteer firefighters could be seen because of the policy.

Electoral Area F director Jay Simpson said he’d heard from fire departments in the North Shuswap who are also worried about losing volunteers to a mandatory vaccination policy. However, he said if the policy is not implemented, perhaps fire departments would lose vaccinated firefighters which could be worse.

Read more: Salmon Arm council adopts mandatory vaccine policy for staff, elected officials

Read more: Vaccination policy coming for Columbia Shuswap Regional District staff, elected officials

The policy identifies being “fully vaccinated against COVID-19” as having all required doses of a Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccine. If Health Canada, the B.C. government or another governing body with authority requires additional measures, such as “booster” doses, CSRD personnel will be expected to comply with those additional measures.

For personnel not in compliance, or who do not qualify for accommodation defined in the policy, the CSRD will review all circumstances and implement “appropriate actions necessary to protect workplace health and safety.” This may include placing individuals on an unpaid administrative leave of absence, requiring public-health training or meeting with a CSRD-appointed medical professional.

Any person who falsifies vaccination status may be subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment or services.
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