Ottawa

Mask and vaccine requirements to continue at Carleton, U of O

Ottawa's two largest universities will continue with mandatory mask and vaccine rules on campus until the end of the winter semester, in spite of the province lifting those requirements.

They and many Ontario universities extend rules on campus until the end of semester

A University of Ottawa student walks through campus on Sept. 1, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Ottawa's two largest universities will continue with mandatory mask and vaccine rules on campus until the end of the winter semester, in spite of the province lifting those requirements.

Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, along with Queen's University, are matching a decision announced late last week by the Council of Ontario Universities.

Vaccine and mask rules will remain in place until at least the end of the current term at its member universities to "minimize uncertainty and disruption," the council said in a statement.

At the University of Ottawa and Carleton University — both members of the council — student unions agree with keeping mandates in place.

But at the University of Ottawa, the union thinks the school's commitment could be stronger.

"We think that these practices should continue even after this term, as long as COVID remains a very real threat to the safety of our community," said Armaan Singh, an advocacy commissioner with that school's student union, in a Monday interview with CBC Radio's All In A Day.

Students who are immunocompromised themselves or live with people who are immunocompromised deserve protection, he said.

"We don't think anybody should have to choose between being able to go to class or having to protect a family member from COVID."

Most U of O courses this term are being offered online, the school says. Its goal for fall 2022 is to have 80 to 90 per cent of courses be in-person.

Students at the University of Ottawa, pictured above in October 2021, will have to keep wearing masks until at least the end of the current semester, alongside students at other Ontario Universities. (Alexander Behne/CBC)

For its part, the Carleton University Students' Association is glad mandates are being kept in place for now, but a vice-president said its students are generally looking forward to the return of some degree of normalcy.

"People are, of course, looking to see how the situation progresses once masks are lifted [elsewhere], but of course we have different opinions from students," said Valentina Vera González, vice-president of student issues with the Carleton University Students' Association.

"Some students want the masks to be lifted, and some others don't feel safe now. So we're just looking to support all of our students."

The union will also support any students who decide to keep wearing masks if the university's mandate is dropped, she said.

Student representatives for Carleton and U of O join us to discuss how long pandemic mandates should remain in effect on campus

Saint Paul University in Ottawa, which is not a member of the Council of Ontario Universities, has dropped its vaccination requirement but will continue to require masks on campus "until further notice," according to its website.

With files from CBC Radio's All In A Day

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