A person wears a face mask as they walk through McGill University during light snowfall in Montreal, Sunday, December 20, 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A person wears a face mask as they walk through McGill University during light snowfall in Montreal, Sunday, December 20, 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Some Canadian universities say no to proof of vaccination requirement

Dozens of universities in the United States have opted to require proof of vaccination

A COVID-19 vaccine likely won’t be a requirement to return to the physical classroom at some universities in September, with several large schools saying they have no intention of mandating proof of immunization for students.

Though some schools remain undecided, the decisions from the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and McGill University come as governments around the world work out how to handle so-called vaccine passports.

“There’s quite a range of opinions,” said Andrew Kirk, an engineering professor and head of the McGill Association of University Teachers. “We haven’t taken a formal position.”

Some professors, he said, believe McGill should require that students be fully vaccinated before returning to laboratories and lecture halls.

“Others feel that as long as they themselves are vaccinated, and there are reasonable precautions, then it shouldn’t be a requirement,” Kirk said.

Though the faculty association doesn’t have a concrete take on the issue, a spokeswoman for McGill said the school is planning for several scenarios, but anticipates that everyone at high-risk for COVID-19 will be vaccinated before fall.

“We do not currently anticipate a requirement to show proof of vaccination before coming to campus in the fall,” Cynthia Lee said in an email.

“The university is using an approach to planning that will create flexibility so that we will be able to adapt if we need to.”

Dozens of universities in the United States have opted to require proof of vaccination, including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeastern.

But there are some concerns around the equity of vaccine passports, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association saying it’s “flashed red and yellow lights at any effort by a Canadian government to mandate public disclosure of private health-care information.”

It argues that the same groups that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — including new immigrants and racialized communities — may also face an added impact from vaccine passport requirements.

“Systemic racism may influence choices of service providers and others about who to demand ‘proof’ from, and who to deny access, particularly in the absence of a strict legal regime governing their use,” the CCLA said in an online FAQ on the issue.

The federal government, meanwhile, is working with other G20 countries to establish a common vaccine passport requirement for international travel.

“We are looking very carefully at it, hoping to align with allied countries,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week.

Some schools are pointing to government guidance in saying they don’t plan on requiring proof of vaccination, including the University of British Columbia.

“All adult students will be eligible to receive the vaccine, including international students,” the return-to-campus primer paper reads. “The COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory.”

Gillian Glass, who heads up CUPE 2278, which represents teaching assistants at UBC, said her union is hopeful the university will consult with them before finalizing anything.

“At this point, because the university doesn’t have a set plan for return to campus, we don’t have a stance yet,” she said.

But that will likely change when the school lays out the conditions for returning to the classroom, she said, and she hopes the school will take the TAs’ position into consideration.

Meanwhile, other schools are still mulling whether to require proof of vaccination, such as the University of Toronto.

“The approach to vaccination is a matter all post-secondary institutions in Ontario are considering at this time,” a spokesperson said. “We are working closely with the guidance of the province when it comes to health and safety requirements in coming to any decisions.”

Likewise, Universities Canada said it’s still weighing the options.

“We are all experiencing this pandemic in real time, and it is too early to say what the world will look like at the beginning of the next academic year,” spokesman Karl Oczkowski said. “Our recommendation to students and universities is to keep the lines of communication open.”

READ MORE: For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusUniversities and Collegesvaccines

Just Posted

Jill Mackenzie carefully replaces books on the shelves at the Houston Public Library. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
District approves annual library grant

Craft kits featured for summer reading club

The tradition of Houston Christian School grads giving Bibles to incoming kindergarten students will take place this year, but outdoors and in a modified fashion. (File photo)
Houston Christian School grad day is June 24

Grads themselves have set tone for the day, says teacher

Scott Richmond will be starting as the new vice principal for HSS and TSE. (Submitted/Houston Today)
Houston gets a new vice principal

Scott Richmond takes over from Dwayne Anderson who moved to Smithers

A Pacific Salmon Foundation grant of $3,000 is going towards the tree plantations. (Cindy Verbeek photo/Houston Today)
550 trees planted in Houston through A Rocha

Houston Christian School students and volunteers help with the tree planting

Currently the Houston station has 16 paramedics, two ambulances and one community paramedic vehicle. (File photo)
Retirement of longtime paramedics worries Houston community

“No loss of service,” assures BC Emergency Health Services

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read