Nova Scotia

Dalhousie Faculty Association demands COVID-19 vaccines for students, staff

The faculty association at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University is demanding the school mandate all staff, students and faculty be vaccinated against COVID-19.

‘People are concerned about going back into the classroom,’ says association president Tara Perrot

The Dalhousie Faculty Association's executive committee says its motion will ensure a safe return to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

The faculty association at Dalhousie University is demanding the Halifax school require all staff, students and faculty be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The executive committee of the association passed a unanimous motion to press for the measure late Tuesday afternoon.

"People are concerned about going back into the classroom in September," said Tara Perrot, president of the Dalhousie Faculty Association and a professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience.

The motion calls for a directive that masks be worn in all public places on campus and for social distancing rules to remain in place. It also asks the university to provide safe levels of ventilation in all buildings.

The faculty association represents about 970 members of teaching, research, professional librarian and professional counselling staff at Dalhousie.

"We are in a fourth wave in a lot of parts of this country," said Perrot. "As we all recall in Nova Scotia, it didn't take long for Nova Scotia to enter the third wave after the rest of the country, and we expect to encounter a fourth wave."

In an email, Dalhousie said it continues to plan for the fall while adhering to provincial public health guidance. The statement says the university values the contributions of faculty and will engage with them as plans evolve.

Perrot said Dalhousie has told staff that a mask requirement will continue on campus, but notes that other Canadian universities have already gone a step further by requiring vaccine proof.

'We've got classes of up to 500 students'

The University of Ottawa and Queen's University in Ontario are among those to make such a move in addition to the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina.

While accepting that not all staff and students will agree with the request, Perrot said the measures make sense for everybody's safety given the number of students returning to campus.

"We've got classes of up to 500 students," she said. "What's going to happen when some of those students say, 'I'm not going to wear a mask'? There's no contingency plans for that kind of thing."

The faculty association posted its demand on its social media Wednesday.

The Dalhousie Student Union did not address the request for mandatory vaccines in an emailed statement Wednesday. The statement reminds students who have not been fully vaccinated to follow provincial regulations and self-isolate for the required time.