Elliot Lake's newly-minted Human Resources Coordinator, Blayne Croskery, had a baptism by fire at Monday night's virtual city council meeting.
It was her first presentation to council in her newly-assumed position at city hall. She was there to discuss establishing a city COVID-19 policy.
"Full vaccination must be acquired as one of three things. Either workplaces must have full vaccination, a medical reason to be exempt, or (having) attended an educational session," Croskery said.
"The corporation of the City of Elliot Lake has a legislated obligation to provide a safe workplace for its employees and an obligation for providing a safe environment to members of the public who access municipal facilities to obtain services," she said.
The exercise was conducted at the behest of the Province of Ontario.
Before the debate ended several councillors apologized for assuming adversarial positions following Croskery's pitch to have the city held accountable for administrating and policing rules about COVID-19 enforcement legislation.
Chief among them was Coun. Luc Cyr who outlined a litany of federal government bills and human rights regulations that would supersede any bylaw that Elliot Lake could put in place.
"Sorry to be on the other side tonight. What I'd like to remind people of is that there are human rights. There are not just medical rights that are involved under human rights. There's religion, which is a huge one for many people," Cyr said.
"There are other grounds too, that are prohibited grounds of discrimination. There are genetic characteristics, disabilities. Each of these grounds can cause huge amounts of distress in those people as well," he said. "If testing is implemented, forced testing, it will be a direct violation. So you may very well see a huge wave of legal challenges to that."
Coun. Norman Mann wanted contractors added to the list of those the policy would apply to. Also involved are city employees, members of council and volunteer students.
"My own personal opinion is the education session is very punitive. I think at this point as an adult, we all really understand the importance of vaccination," stated Mann.
He also asked that the failure to comply by staff could result in discipline up to dismissal part be scrubbed from the policy.
Coun. Tom Turner said, "We are the subordinate government of all three levels. We don't create the rules."
Coun. Sandy Finamore added, "Our children under 12 years of age are not vaccinated yet. It's already in the schools of Ontario."
"There are also bus drivers that are isolating tonight because of exposures to COVID," she said. "There are kids that are out of school already, and they've only been in school for a week."
Coun. Chris Patrie said, "The province is downloading to businesses and to municipalities and organizations, the responsibility."
"They're just backdooring the fact that they're mandating vaccines and I want them to step up to the plate and mandate that," said Mayor Dan Marchisella. "I think it was said that 90 per cent of current COVID hospitalizations are people who have not been vaccinated."
"There are people who are having to miss vital surgeries because ICU rooms are being filled with COVID patients," the mayor added.
Coun. Ed Pearce said for him the issue was personal.
"I have a little bit of a different perspective because I was part of the last wave of Polio before vaccinations came. And the impact of that on our communities was phenomenal."
He recalled the use of "iron lungs", machines that were used to treat children in hospitals for disease-related severe breathing issues.
"If you've ever seen a Shriner's Hospital with a ward filled with young children in an iron lung, you know what I'm talking about," concluded Pearce.
The COVID vaccine policy minus staff disciplinary measures and including application to add city contractors passed five to two with Couns. Cyr and Patrie voting against it.
The policy is retroactive to Sept. 7.
The full text of the policy passed by council follows.
RE: POLICY: COVID-19 VACCINATION POLICY PURPOSE The Corporation of the City of Elliot Lake (hereafter known as “The City”) has a legislated obligation to provide a safe workplace for its employees and an obligation to provide a safe environment to members of the public who access municipal facilities to obtain services.
The most effective way in which to deal with an occupational health and safety risk in the workplace is to eliminate the hazard. The purpose of this standard is to set out the steps to attempt to eliminate the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace and to provide a safe environment for workers to work and for the public to utilize municipal facilities.
Being vaccinated means having very good protection again infection from COVID-19 and lowering the risk of serious illness. Further, the risk of other people contracting COVID-19 from a Vaccinated person is much lower than from an unvaccinated person.
Taking into consideration the risks to the health and safety of employees and the public and to ensure that there are no outbreaks within the workplace, which would further negatively affect the public and workers through the distribution of access to municipal facilities; it is necessary to take all steps to eliminate the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. SCOPE This policy applies to all City employees, contractors, volunteers, students, and Council Members.
PROCEDURE The City of Elliot Lake requires all employees to be fully vaccinated/immunized against COVID-19 by November 30, 2021. For a two dose vaccine series, employees must receive one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by October 15, 2021, and two doses by 2 November 30, 2021.
For a single dose vaccine series, employees must receive this dose by November 30, 2021.
The City of Elliot Lake requires proof of vaccination from all employees. Proof means documentation verifying receipt of a vaccination series approved by Health Canada or the World Health Organization. Employees must disclose their vaccination status to the City in accordance with the established process by no later than September 30, 2021.
Employees who, by September 30, 2021, disclose that they have not received two doses of COVID-19 (or a single dose in the case of a single dose vaccine series), or who have not disclosed their vaccination status as required, shall attend mandatory education on the benefits of vaccination, in addition to the obligations identified under “Procedure”: above.
Employees will be required to update their vaccination status in accordance with the established process and by the end dates set out in this policy, as they obtain each dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Workers who are not able to meet the criteria above and those requiring a medical exemption from receiving the vaccination will be required to undertake regular (i.e., at least once per week for full-time employees) antigen testing or equivalent.
Antigen testing will be conducted outside of work hours, and at the cost of the employee. Employees will be required to provide Human Resources with weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Any isolation periods required as a result of a positive test will be unpaid by the City.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:
- Ensure that Employees are aware of the importance of being vaccinated
- Ensure that Employees who attend the Workplace have submitted evidence of Vaccination or a negative Rapid Test in accordance with the standard. Employees and Members:
- Remain informed about the importance of being vaccinated
- Identify opportunities to become vaccinated through clinics or from health care professionals
- Submit the required evidence of vaccination or a negative Rapid Test in accordance with this standard. Human Resources:
- Provide information and guidance to Employees and Members regarding the importance of being vaccinated.
- Provide Employees and Members with access to information on COVID-19, health and safety precautions, and on vaccinations.
- Assist to ensure that any records of vaccinations or negative Rapid Tests are stores and used in compliance with privacy legislation.
ACCOMMODATIONS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE HUMAN RIGHTS CODE
Public Health reports very rare instances of people who need to be exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination.
Allergies are much less common for this vaccine than others. Employees who believe they have a valid medical reason that would exempt them from being vaccinated, shall consult their healthcare provide for personal medical advice so they can make an informed decision and manage any potential risk.
If exemption is recommended, the employee will provide the Medical Exemption form (Appendix A) to their healthcare provider for completion.
Submission of this form is required by October 15, 2021.
The City will maintain vaccination disclosure information, including documentation verifying receipt of a vaccination series approved by Health Canada or the World Health Organization, in accordance with privacy legislation.
This information will only be used to the extent necessary for implementation of this policy, for administering health and safety protocols, and infection and prevention control measures in the workplace.
Employees may also be required to disclose their vaccination status by law or to otherwise give effect to this policy, including, but not limited to, situations where employees are directed to stay home as a result of the daily screening tool in order to comply with the clearance criteria to return to work (e.g. after experiencing symptoms, a COVID-19 exposure, or a travel quarantine exemption).
FAILURE TO COMPLY
Violations of this policy will result in disciplinary action.
Appendix A Medical Exemption from COVID-19 Vaccination
Name:___________________________ Date of Birth: ________________________ Dear Physician, The Corporation of the City of Elliot Lake recommends that all employees be immunized against COVID-19. Your patient has requested a medical exemption from this vaccination. A medical exemption from vaccination is allowed for recognized contraindications only. Please complete and sign this form to request a medical exemption for your patient. My patient should not be immunized with a COVID-19 vaccine for the following reason(s): ______________________________________________________________________ I certify that my patient has the above contraindication(s) and recommend a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination.
Physician Signature: ________________________ Date:_____________________
I consent to my Physician providing this information to my employer.
Patient Signature: ________________________ Date:_____________________ (Any fees for form completion are the responsibility of the patient) Please provide the completed form to your patient for return to the employer or email the completed form to our confidential human resources inbox: email@example.com. Personal information contained on this form is collected pursuant to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 1991 and the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, and will be used for the purpose of ensuring adequate staffing levels for the delivery of municipal services.