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Mandatory vaccine policy breach taken 'seriously,' North Van city fire department says

Two members of fire department alleged to have provided false proof of COVID-19 vaccination
Firefighter HelmetCINDY
The North Vancouver City Fire Department says it takes mandatory vaccination seriously after allegations aired by Global News BC.

The North Vancouver City Fire Department says it takes breaches of the City of North Vancouver's mandatory vaccination policy seriously, after allegations arose that two members provided false proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The allegations were aired by Global News BC Wednesday (Feb. 23) and have not been shared directly with the North Shore News.

In a statement, fire chief Greg Schalk said he could not comment on any specific employee or investigation as personnel matters are strictly confidential.

As of Jan. 25, having two doses of COVID-19 vaccines became a mandatory condition of employment for City of North Vancouver staff and volunteers.

“We take breaches of this policy very seriously, and the policy had let employees know that any employee found to have provided false or misleading information may also be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment, and a full investigation would be undertaken,” Schalk said. “The policy meets our occupational health and safety obligations to protect our employees and the public from risks associated with COVID-19.”

Per the policy, employees were required to produce a BC Vaccine Card or federal COVID-19 proof of vaccination QR code, according to the city. Those who provided paper vaccination records were followed up with.

When the policy came into effect, the city reported that only two of its 609 full-time, part-time and auxiliary staff were put on leave for failing to comply with the mandate.

The International Association of Fire Fighters local 296, which represents city fire department members, declined to comment on the allegations.

West Vancouver labour lawyer Gwendoline Allison said some firefighters unions are challenging the legality of mandatory vaccinations as a condition of employment, and those cases have not yet been heard. But, because local government employees – particularly firefighters – work closely with the public, labour boards have so far refused to grant temporary injunctions that would halt their implementation.

“The labour arbitrators have said, ‘No, these are important preventative measures, so we're not going to stay any of these or suspend any of the policies,” she said.

Allison said she believes anyone who is put on leave for failing to get vaccinated should be entitled to compensation, as it amounts to dismissal without cause.

But she added, employers are likely to treat dishonesty from their staff as very serious.

“It's one of the factors that will almost always lead to dismissal for cause,” she said.

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