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Greater Sudbury releases its vaccine policy

Vaccine exemptions will be made for employees with valid Human Rights Code-based medical or religious reasons, the City of Greater Sudbury announces.
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Tom Davies Square, city hall, Greater Sudbury

The City of Greater Sudbury’s vaccine policy for employees requires that all staff disclose their vaccination status by Sept. 30 and be fully vaccinated with an accepted vaccine by Nov. 15. 

In a media release issued Wednesday, the city noted that “reasonable accommodation will be provided to those employees with a valid Human Rights Code-based exemption for medical or religious reasons,” pending their approval with appropriate documentation.

This, despite the Ontario Human Rights Commission declaring “a singular belief or personal preference against vaccinations or masks does not appear to be protected on the grounds of creed under the Code.”

Further, the commission noted they were “not aware of any tribunal or court decision that found a singular belief against vaccinations or masks amounted to a creed within the meaning of the Code.” 

Last week, Sudbury man Chris Baron expressed his disagreement regarding the commission’s findings, falsely arguing that vaccines restructure RNA, which he said is against “God’s will.” 

At the City of Greater Sudbury, employees who qualify to remain unvaccinated for medical or religious reasons will be required to undergo regular rapid antigen testing.

Those employees who do not have an approved accommodation plan and are not fully vaccinated “may request options for leave in accordance with current policies and/or collective bargaining agreements.” The city has also said there is a provision for “progressive discipline” for employees who fail to comply. 

“Since this pandemic began more than 18 months ago, the City has followed all public health advice and implemented measures to protect the well-being of our employees and our community,” Mayor Brian Bigger said in the media release. 

“This policy is the next step in that approach and aligns us with many other private and public-sector organizations. We know that vaccination is our best defence against COVID-19, and it’s a vital step in protecting our employees, their loved ones and our community as a whole.”

The policy will apply to all city employees, volunteers, students and members of council, although employees at Pioneer Manor have a separate policy in place. 

When council-appointed committees shift from virtual to in-person, the policy will also apply to committee members, with more details to be provided to members at a later date. 

“Similar to what is being done in many municipalities across Ontario, adopting this policy will allow employees and residents to enter our facilities knowing we are taking all reasonable steps to keep them safe and healthy,” city CAO Ed Archer said in the release. “We have made, and will continue to make, decisions that support a safe workplace and protect everyone in this community.”

All city facilities will continue to follow public health advice as it relates to additional health and safety measures such as wearing masks, self-screening, washing hands and physical distancing.

Meanwhile, beginning Sept. 22, the province will require Ontario residents to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status to access certain businesses and settings, such as fitness/recreational facilities, sporting events, meeting and event spaces, restaurants, bars, casinos, cinemas and concerts. 

Last month, a handful of city councillors expressed their support for the city adopting a vaccine policy. 

A city representative noted at the time that there were 3,036 staff members with the City of Greater Sudbury in 2020, excluding Greater Sudbury Police Service but including volunteer firefighters.