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Highlights: GC vaccination policy & GC-VATS

By COVID-19

Last week, the COVID-19 vaccination policy for the federal public service was rolled out, which included a new online system called GC-VATS where public servants must login to confirm their vaccination status.

Over the past week, many public servants have been active on social media, posting about how the online attestation has been an effortless, smooth process.

Others have also been posting in some circles online that this runs contrary to the public service’s own policies, as well as early discussion around crowdsourced fundraising campaigns online (such as GoFundMe) for those who may be put on leave without pay, should they be unwilling to disclose their vaccination status or unwilling to be vaccinated.

Attestation through online system (GC-VATS)

Before October 29, 2021:

Public servants must login to the new online system called “GC-VATS” (Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System) and then follow a series of steps:

Not everyone will be able to do so at once, as Treasury Board indicated that as of October 6, departments will be onboarded in phases.

Then as of November 15, 2021:

Public servants will be placed on administrative leave without pay if:

  • their manager has determined that the duty to accommodate does not apply, and they remain unvaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to be vaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to attest to their vaccination status.

The official policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service

The official policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service, including the RCMP can be found here.

General highlights:

  • The policy states that public servants must comply with this policy regardless of whether they work onsite, remotely, or telework, “given that operational requirements may include ad hoc onsite presence.”
  • Leave code 699 (Other Leave With Pay), is not available for employees unwilling to be fully vaccinated or unwilling to disclose their vaccination status.
  • The policy also touches on a range of topics including: roles and responsibilities for employees and managers, the duty to accommodate those who can’t be vaccinated, ensuring a respectful workplace free from harassing anyone based on their vaccination status, privacy, and consequences of non-compliance.

Employees are responsible for:

  • Disclosing their vaccination and testing status accurately as required by this policy;
  • Providing truthful information. Failure to do so could constitute a breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may result in disciplinary action;
  • Informing their manager of their need for accommodation based on a certified medical contraindication, religion, or another prohibited ground of discrimination as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act at the earliest opportunity or by the attestation deadline, if possible;
  • Providing their manager with complete and accurate information necessary to identify appropriate accommodation,
  • Refraining from directing harassment or any other prohibited conduct toward an individual for any reason, including their vaccination status or accommodation measures.

Read the full list here.

Managers are responsible for:

  • Ensuring that employees who report to them know how to enter their vaccine attestations and any associated data or information in any system (GC-VATS);
  • Reviewing vaccine attestations and any associated data or information entered by employees who report to them, for the purpose of validating that the information complies with the requirements;
  • Responding to employees’ requests for accommodation under the Duty to Accommodate, as outlined above, including:
    • Informing the employee of their obligations;
    • Gathering the relevant information;
    • Making decisions as to whether the duty to accommodate applies;
    • Implementing the decision by identifying the appropriate accommodation measures, which may include mandatory testing; and,
    • Documenting the process.
  • Maintaining a respectful, productive, inclusive, and equitable environment.

Read the full list here.

How to request an accomodation:

Treasury Board indicated that for those who are unable to be vaccinated, accommodation may be determined on a case-by-case basis.  

Employees unable to be fully vaccinated should: 

  • At the earliest opportunity, inform their manager of their need for accommodation based on prohibited grounds under the Canadian Human Rights Act;
  • Provide their manager with the accurate information necessary to identify appropriate accommodation, including information on relevant limitations and restrictions; 
  • Cooperate and collaborate in good faith with their organization’s representative(s) to find one or more means to accommodate such needs; and,
  • Notify their manager if their accommodation needs change. 

Consequences of non-compliance:

Within 2 weeks of the attestation deadline:

  • For those unwilling to be fully vaccinated or to disclose their vaccination status:
    • Public servants will be required to attend an online training session on COVID-19 vaccination.

At 2 weeks after the attestation deadline:

  • For those unwilling to be fully vaccinated or to disclose their vaccination status:
    • Leave without pay and restricted access to the workplace, off-site visits, business travel and conferences.

Read the full list here.

Privacy:

The policy states that, “personal information will be collected and managed in accordance with the Privacy Act.”

Ensuring a respectful workplace:

The policy also states that, “harassment or other prohibited conduct directed toward an individual for any reason, including based on their vaccination status, will not be tolerated.”

Other links:

GC-VATS (the Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System)

Policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service

Fact sheet: I am unable to be vaccinated

Fact sheet: I am unwilling to be vaccinated

Fact sheet: Information for managers

News release: Prime Minister announces mandatory vaccination for the federal workforce and federally regulated transportation sectors

Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Changes announced to the senior ranks of the public service (October 8, 2021)

By Shuffles

On October 8, 2021, the Prime Minister announced the following changes in the senior ranks of the public service:

Dr. Harpreet S. Kochhar, currently Associate Deputy Minister of Health, becomes President of the Public Health Agency of Canada, effective October 12, 2021.

Heather Jeffrey, currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategy and Integration, COVID-19 Task Force, Health Canada, becomes Associate Deputy Minister of Health, effective October 12, 2021.

The Prime Minister thanked Iain Stewart for his service as President of the Public Health Agency of Canada upon his return as President of the National Research Council of Canada, effective October 12, 2021, and recognized his leadership in successfully implementing the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. He also thanked Mitch Davies for serving as Interim President of the National Research Council of Canada in Mr. Stewart’s absence.

The Prime Minister took the opportunity to acknowledge other changes in the senior ranks of the Public Service that took place last month:

Gina Wilson, Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth, Canadian Heritage, is also serving as Deputy Minister for Women and Gender Equality, effective September 1, 2021.

Shalene Curtis-Micallef, previously Assistant Deputy Minister, Tax Law Services, Department of Justice Canada, is Associate Deputy Minister of Justice, effective September 1, 2021.

Nancy Gardiner, previously Assistant Deputy Minister, Departmental Programs and Operations, Women and Gender Equality Canada, is President of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, effective September 1, 2021.

Frances McRae, previously Assistant Deputy Minister, Small Business and Marketplace Services, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, is Chief Administrative Officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, effective September 1, 2021.

Ted Gallivan, previously Assistant Commissioner, Compliance Programs Branch, Canada Revenue Agency, is Executive Vice-President of the Canada Border Services Agency, effective September 1, 2021.

Donnalyn McClymont, previously Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel Secretariat, Privy Council Office, is Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal), Privy Council Office, effective September 24, 2021.

The Prime Minister also congratulates the following individuals on their retirement from the Public Service, and thanks them for their dedication and service to Canadians:

James Meddings, President of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario

Guylaine Roy, Deputy Minister for Women and Gender Equality

Kevin Stringer, Chief Administrative Officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Janine Sherman, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal), Privy Council Office”

Other links:

Update to required COVID-19 vaccinations for public servants (October 6, 2021)

By COVID-19

Earlier today, Treasury Board announced that federal public servants will have to attest they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, how they will need to do it and by when, and what happens if they don’t.

This follows August’s announcement, when the government announced its intent to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all federal public servants.

Attestation through online system (GC-VATS)

Today’s update provided more details, including that all federal public servants, even those working from home will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, must do so by October 29 and attest to it online. This includes all public servants, including members and reservists of the RCMP.

Treasury Board said that, “starting October 6, 2021, employees will be onboarded in phases to provide their vaccine attestation through a secure online system, and they must do so by October 29, 2021.”

Public servants will need to login to the new online system called “GC-VATS” (Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System) and then follow a series of steps:

Values and ethics

Treasury Board emphasized that public servants, “have an obligation to provide true attestations.”

Making a false statement would constitute a breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. Attestations will be audited and managers can ask for proof of vaccination at any time.

– Treasury Board Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Privacy concerns

Unions expressed concern back in August over the privacy of public servants and how their rights would be respected.

Treasury Board reiterated that the collection of private information will be done in accordance with the Privacy Act and Policy on Privacy Protection:

The collection of all personal information from public servants will be done in accordance with the Privacy Act, the Policy on Privacy Protection and its related instruments. Data on vaccination rates within the federal public service is expected to be available in the coming weeks.

– Treasury Board Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

Exemptions

Back in August, unions were also vocal about the government needing to provide accommodations for public servants who could not be vaccinated for reasons protected under human rights legislation.

In today’s announcement, Treasury Board said that exemptions will apply as, “Employees who are unable to be vaccinated based on a prohibited ground as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act, such as a medical contraindication, may request accommodation.”

Leave without pay for those unwilling to disclose status / unwilling to get fully vaccinated

Then as of November 15, public servants will be placed on administrative leave without pay if:

  • their manager has determined that the duty to accommodate does not apply, and they remain unvaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to be vaccinated; or
  • they are unwilling to attest to their vaccination status.

The official policy

The official policy policy on COVID-19 vaccination for the federal public service, including the RCMP can be found here.

Unions react

Despite Treasury Board saying today’s announcement was informed by input from unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), one of the largest federal public service unions said that it wasn’t. They said, while they support a policy to vaccinate federal public servants, there was no meaningful consultation with unions and the policy falls short.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) said that, “our primary concern is ensuring that all PIPSC members are in compliance.” PIPSC also linked to a form on their website to request help from the union in the event a public servant’s request for accommodation to be unvaccinated is denied.

Other links:

GC-VATS (the Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System)

News release: Prime Minister announces mandatory vaccination for the federal workforce and federally regulated transportation sectors

Backgrounder: COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the federal workforce

PIPSC: Mandatory vaccination help form

PSAC: Federal government releases vaccination policy without proper consultation

Treasury Board announces intent to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for public servants

Latest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service (September 29)

By COVID-19

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service since reporting began now stands at 5,829 as of September 29. That’s 232 new cases since the previous report on September 9. The number of total reported cases has been:

  • 5,597 on September 9;
  • 5,470 on August 26;
  • 5,311 on July 29;
  • 5,297 on July 15;
  • 5,256 on June 16;
  • 5,194 on June 2;
  • 5,151 on May 26;
  • 5,091 on May 19;
  • 4,967 on May 12;
  • 4,785 on May 5;
  • 4,581 on April 28;
  • 4,314 on April 21;
  • 4,011 on April 14; and,
  • 3,751 on April 7.

The breakdown is by province and the top five areas with the highest reported cases continues to be:

National Capital Region: 1,585
Quebec (minus the NCR): 979
Alberta: 906
Ontario (minus the NCR): 854
British Columbia: 820

The amount of reported cases in the public service outside of Canada went up to 76.

Province, region or territoryReported cases
Alberta906
British Columbia820
Manitoba238
National Capital Region (NCR)1,585
New Brunswick21
Newfoundland and Labrador23
Northwest Territories7
Nova Scotia51
Nunavut2
Ontario (Minus NCR)854
Prince Edward Island2
Quebec (Minus NCR)979
Saskatchewan263
Yukon2
Outside of Canada76

Other links:

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service

Latest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service (September 9)

By COVID-19

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service since reporting began now stands at 5,597 as of September 9. There were 127 new cases between August 26 and September 9. Alberta saw the largest jump from 817 to 853 and surpassed Ontario. The number of total reported cases has been:

  • 5,470 on August 26;
  • 5,311 on July 29;
  • 5,297 on July 15;
  • 5,256 on June 16;
  • 5,194 on June 2;
  • 5,151 on May 26;
  • 5,091 on May 19;
  • 4,967 on May 12;
  • 4,785 on May 5;
  • 4,581 on April 28;
  • 4,314 on April 21;
  • 4,011 on April 14; and,
  • 3,751 on April 7.

The breakdown is by province and the top five areas with the highest reported cases continues to be:

National Capital Region: 1,522
Quebec (minus the NCR): 950
Alberta: 853
Ontario (minus the NCR): 837
British Columbia: 791

The amount of reported cases in the public service outside of Canada went up one to 70.

Province, region or territoryReported cases
Alberta853
British Columbia791
Manitoba234
National Capital Region (NCR)1,522
New Brunswick20
Newfoundland and Labrador21
Northwest Territories2
Nova Scotia49
Nunavut2
Ontario (Minus NCR)837
Prince Edward Island2
Quebec (Minus NCR)950
Saskatchewan243
Yukon1
Outside of Canada70

Other links:

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service

Changes announced to the senior ranks of the public service (September 11, 2021)

By Shuffles

The following changes to the senior ranks of the public service were published in the September 11, 2021 issue of the Canada Gazette:

Shalene Curtis-Micallef becomes Associate Deputy Minister of Justice.

Ted Gallivan becomes Executive Vice-President at the Canada Border Services Agency.

Leah Anderson becomes President and Chief Executive Officer at the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Nancy Ruth Healey becomes Commissioner at the Canada Employment Insurance Commission.

Donnalyn McClymont becomes Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal) at the Privy Council Office.

Nancy Gardiner becomes President of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

Gina Wilson, Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth, Canadian Heritage, to be concurrently Deputy Minister of Women and Gender Equality.

Other links:

Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 155, Number 37: Government Notices

Latest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service (August 26)

By COVID-19

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the public service since reporting began now stands at 5,470 as of August 26. That’s 159 new cases in one month since July 29. The number of total reported cases has been:

  • 5,311 on July 29;
  • 5,297 on July 15;
  • 5,256 on June 16;
  • 5,194 on June 2;
  • 5,151 on May 26;
  • 5,091 on May 19;
  • 4,967 on May 12;
  • 4,785 on May 5;
  • 4,581 on April 28;
  • 4,314 on April 21;
  • 4,011 on April 14; and,
  • 3,751 on April 7.

The breakdown is by province and the top five areas with the highest reported cases continues to be:

National Capital Region: 1,500
Quebec (minus the NCR): 935
Ontario (minus the NCR): 828
Alberta: 817
British Columbia: 762

The amount of reported cases in the public service outside of Canada has jumped to 69 from 62.

Province, region or territoryReported cases
Alberta817
British Columbia762
Manitoba230
National Capital Region (NCR)1,500
New Brunswick20
Newfoundland and Labrador21
Northwest Territories1
Nova Scotia49
Nunavut2
Ontario (Minus NCR)828
Prince Edward Island2
Quebec (Minus NCR)935
Saskatchewan233
Yukon1
Outside of Canada69

Other links:

Reported cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the federal public service

Latest (deleted) message from the Chief Human Resources Officer: required vaccination

By COVID-19

The Chief Human Resources Officer for the federal public service sent a message to departments on Friday, following news from Treasury Board that vaccinations against COVID-19 would be required for all federal public servants.

The largely generic message titled, “Required Vaccination : What it means For The Public Service,” highlighted working with departments and stakeholders, specifically unions through the National Joint Council to figure out next steps and how this would be implemented.

The messaged made reference to the public servants who will unable to be vaccinated and that discussions will happen about accommodations that could potentially be put in place.

Despite generally being collaborative and positive in tone, the message also made reference to public servants who may refuse being vaccinated, “For those who refuse vaccination, we will need to consider alternative measures, such as testing and screening. Our overall objective will be to protect broader public health by reducing the risk of COVID-19.”

The message was taken down from Treasury Board’s website on Monday after the line about about public servants refusing vaccinations and being tested instead was picked up the media and became the subject of partisan debate.

However, the media and those on social media had already saved the message and were posting screenshots of it online, despite Treasury Board having removed it from its website.

Treasury Board had to clarify, saying the reference to testing and screening for public servants who may refuse vaccination wasn’t entirely clear, which is why they decided to remove the message.

Treasury Board did not indicate whether an updated, more accurate message would be posted online.

Reaction on social media included some saying it was unfortunate that the health and well-being of public servants was being used for partisan advantage.

PM: “There will be consequences”

The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that, “[public] servants must be vaccinated. If anyone doesn’t have a legitimate medical reason for not getting fully vaccinated, or chooses not to get vaccinated, there will be consequences.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada responds

In response to the Prime Minister’s comments, one of the largest federal public service unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), put out a statement titled, “Public service workers shouldn’t be disciplined over vaccination requirements”:

This week, national political party leaders have made concerning statements about disciplining or terminating federal public service workers who choose not to be vaccinated as part of the government’s vaccine mandate proposal.

PSAC supports vaccination requirements for federal workers to ensure the safety of our members in their workplaces, and to protect our communities, but using discipline and termination to enforce them is unacceptable.

PSAC has been in consultation with the federal government on their vaccination proposal, and our position is clear: employees with a valid medical reason for being unvaccinated, or for reasons protected by human rights legislation, must be offered a formal accommodation under the law.

In addition, if there are workers who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated, the government must temporarily reassign those employees to other duties where possible or allow for alternate work arrangements such as remote work.

Where required, other measures should be explored, including regular screening and rapid testing.

PSAC will continue to play an active role in consultations as the federal government develops its vaccination requirements plan. We will do our utmost to ensure the safety of our members while protecting their rights in the workplace – including their right to privacy.

– Public Service Alliance of Canada, August 17, 2021

The Canadian Association of Professional Employees puts out expanded statement

Another union, the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (or CAPE) also put out an expanded statement on Tuesday, following their brief one from last Friday:

On August 13, 2021, the Federal Government announced a policy of mandatory vaccination for federal public service employees.

As the country enters a fourth wave of the pandemic and COVID cases continue to rise, it’s more important than ever for Canadians to do everything they can to protect each other, slow the spread of the virus in our communities and do what it takes to rid ourselves of the pandemic.

CAPE recognizes the importance of vaccinations and welcomes all efforts to increase vaccination coverage across Canada. As such, we strongly encourage all members who can get the vaccine to do so.

The announcement around mandatory vaccinations was sudden, provided little details around the consequences for non-compliance and failed to lay out any necessary exceptions. Without further information and meaningful consultation on what a policy on mandatory vaccination would require, CAPE cannot adequately guide or advise members.

It is important that any decision that seeks to implement vaccine requirements for federal public service employees, also consider exceptions for workers who cannot be vaccinated for reasons protected under human rights legislation.

The details of the government’s mandatory policy have yet to be outlined. CAPE is actively working with the government and other union partners, through the National Joint Council, as well as our National Executive Committee to provide meaningful input on the proposed policy. CAPE will also continue to advocate for the government to maintain other measures that help to reduce exposure to the virus, including telework, varied work schedules, and flexibility for family care.

CAPE will share additional information with its members as the consultation process unfolds and as details of the employer’s proposed plan are formalized.

– Canadian Association of Professional Employees, August 17, 2021

Other links:

Message from the Chief Human Resources Officer: Required Vaccination : What it means For The Public Service (link to deleted message)

PSAC: Public service workers shouldn’t be disciplined over vaccination requirements

CAPE: Mandatory Vaccinations: Next Steps

Other media:

Message from the Chief Human Resources Officer: Required Vaccination : What it means For The Public Service (deleted message):

Treasury Board announces intent to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for public servants

By COVID-19

Today Treasury Board announced its, “intent to require vaccination as early as the end of September across the federal public service” to help in the fight against COVID-19.

This would extend to employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to be vaccinated, “as soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October.”

Treasury Board assured that they, “will engage with key stakeholders, including bargaining agents and transportation sector operators, as we plan for the implementation of these initiatives.”

At announcement time, only one union, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, had responded to Treasury Board’s announcement:

“As the union representing the scientists who approved the COVID-19 vaccines, PIPSC welcomes all efforts to increase vaccination coverage in Canada. That includes a vaccine policy in the federal government that makes vaccines more accessible to our members and accommodates legitimate reasons for which an employee may not be vaccinated.”

– Debi Daviau, President, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

About next steps and how this will work, Treasury Board said that, “details will be communicated as the work unfolds. The process will include determining how this requirement will be implemented, through confirmation of COVID-19 vaccination and other means of protection, such as testing when necessary.”

UPDATE #1 (Friday August 13, 2021; 7:30 p.m.)

A second union, the Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE), issued a statement:

“CAPE is disappointed by the lack of consultation around this decision and the absence of advance notice. Mandatory vaccination for all federal public service employees will have serious implications and will bring a new level of disruption that would have been better addressed through thoughtful discussions and coordination with unions.”

– Canadian Association of Professional Employees

UPDATE #2 (Friday August 13, 2021; 7:45 p.m.)

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), one of the largest federal public service unions also issued their statement citing privacy concerns and accommodating those who can’t be vaccinated:

“PSAC supports measures to increase vaccination rates, including vaccination requirements for federal public service workers to protect our members, their colleagues, and our communities.

Governments and employers have an obligation to ensure our workplaces are safe for public service workers and Canadians everywhere.

Although we support the goals of the government’s proposal, it’s critical that any eventual plan put forward by the government that would collect or verify the vaccination or medical status of our members respects their legal right to privacy. The government must also provide accommodations for workers who cannot be vaccinated for reasons protected under human rights legislation.

We expect the government to continue consulting with unions on the implementation of their vaccination requirements to safeguard our members’ right to privacy and ensure that their human rights are respected.”

– Public Service Alliance of Canada

Other links:

News release: Government of Canada to require vaccination of federal workforce and federally regulated transportation sector

A change announced to the senior ranks of the public service (August 12, 2021)

By Shuffles

On August 12, 2021, the Prime Minister announced the following change in the senior ranks of the public service:

Manon Brassard, currently President of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, will also serve as Interim President of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario, effective August 12, 2021.

Other links:

News release

Biography: Manon Brossard