Politics

RCMP union warns Mounties of consequences if they don't get vaccinated

The RCMP's union says that while it still supports a Mountie's right to refuse vaccination, it also wants officers to be aware of the consequences of that choice.

NPF says it will still support a member's right to refuse vaccination

A man walks by a sign outside of the RCMP "E" Division headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia on Monday May 31, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The RCMP's union says that while it still supports a Mountie's right to refuse vaccination, it also wants officers to be aware of the consequences of that choice.

The National Police Federation issued a new statement today in response to the Liberal government's announcement earlier this week that most public servants — including RCMP officers — must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the month or face being put on unpaid leave.

Last month, the NPF — which represents nearly 20,000 officers — sent a mass email to members saying the union supports a member's right to choose not to be vaccinated.

In a statement issued to CBC News today, the NPF says it has also reminded its members that refusing vaccination would have "consequences."

"As we have maintained throughout 2021, consistent with our duty of fair representation, the NPF will continue to support members' access to vaccines, and their choice to be vaccinated or not," said union president Brian Sauvé.

"We also clarified to them the potential consequences of their decisions."

This week, the government rolled out a mandatory vaccine policy requiring public servants, including Mounties, to either get their shots by month's end or face being forced into an unpaid leave of absence. They must be fully vaccinated or apply for a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 29.

Neither the RCMP nor the union would say how many members have voiced concerns about vaccination.

"At this time, we expect that regular members and reservists who are able will take steps to get their vaccine by the deadline," said Sgt. Caroline Duval, a spokesperson for RCMP in Ottawa.

"If a regular member is unwilling to be vaccinated and is placed on leave, the RCMP will take steps to ensure Canadians' safety is not impacted by deploying vaccinated regular members and reservists as required."

RCMP doctor compares shot to body armour

Peter Clifford, the RCMP's chief medical adviser, sent a video message out this week encouraging members to get vaccinated.

"Think of it this way. As a police officer, you wear body armour because it could save your life if you get shot," Clifford said in the video, which was made public on the RCMP website.

"It's like body armour or a seatbelt for your lungs. It's not a guarantee that you will never get sick, but if you do, it's the reason you'll survive."

Sauvé said he's still frustrated by what he calls the government's "engagement-by-notification" approach.

"The National Police Federation anticipated and deserved a more meaningful and authentic engagement on this policy with the employer, Treasury Board of Canada," he said.

"We will continue to monitor Treasury Board and the RCMP's implementation of this policy framework and will support our members, as needed and appropriate, on an individual basis."

With files from Canadian Press

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