Smithers Town Hall. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Smithers Town Hall. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Town of Smithers implements COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Town forced to comply with federal rules for town workers who work in federal facilities

Smithers town council passed a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy, for the Town of Smithers, Nov. 9, unanimously.

The Town had to implement a mandatory vaccine policy, effective Nov. 15, due to the fact that town employees work at the Smithers airport and the Smithers RCMP detachment, both federal facilities.

The mandate requires town employees to provide proof of vaccination, as per Human Resources (HR) policy # HR-27, for certain employees, and all future employees as a term and condition of continued employment with the town.

This new mandate pertains to employees and volunteers in the following employment settings:

Employees working at the Smithers Regional Airport, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment, responding members of Smithers Fire Rescue, and responding personnel of the Smithers Emergency Support Services team.

In late October, Town staff received notice from Transport Canada on new vaccine policy requirements for the airport. The order, in short, requires all personnel entering “relevant aerodrome property” to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15, 2021. Staff were also advised of ongoing RCMP implementation of federal orders respecting mandatory vaccinations.

Town staff sought guidance from numerous authorities including the BC Human Rights Tribunal, Health and Safety officials, Respect of Privacy authorities, CUPE 1570 representatives, and Transport Canada.

According to a staff report to council: “There were a number of conflicting spheres of rights and obligations that the town considered, but the potential for provincial or federal requirements are why staff requested permission,” to vary their administration policy, and ask council to authorize HR-27, COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Policy.

In implementing this new policy, Town staff are being offered one-on-one conversations with Northern Health representatives, and exemptions can be accommodated under existing Transport Canada orders.

Coun. Frank Wray read a statement for the record, regarding his general resistance of town and council making mandates regarding what people must do in regards to their own bodies and health decisions, but in this instance, he acknowledged the need of the town to have a policy, as an employer, within federal facilities and to have continuity.

Commenting on the need to make a policy, Mayor Gladys Atrill said the situation was not ideal.

“I realize that as a municipality, we have to comply when we have to comply, and we’re in that situation. I think the council has no desire to put any more pressure on our staff already. At the same time, when we have an order from another level of government, we’re going to comply.”

No other councillors commented on the new policy before the vote.

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