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Canadian vaccine mandate for truckers will not exempt the unvaccinated

The federal government says unvaccinated Canadian truckers will not be exempt from the new federal trucker vaccination mandate that goes into effect this weekend.

In a joint statement, the Ministers of Transport, Health and Public Safety of Canada said that Canada’s initial policy requiring truckers entering Canada be fully vaccinated, or be subjected to PCR testing and requirements. quarantine, is maintained.

Although the Canada Border Services Agency told reporters on Wednesday that unvaccinated Canadian truckers arriving at the border will “remain exempt” from any testing or quarantine requirements, the government now says information provided by a carrier word were incorrect.

As it is, and as was initially the case prior to this week’s confusion, unvaccinated Canadian truckers will be “required to meet pre-entry, arrival, and day eight testing requirements.” , as well as quarantine requirements ”, as they cannot be refused entry. in Canada.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated non-Canadian truckers will be turned away if they are unable to show proof of immunization or a valid medical contraindication to COVID-19 vaccines.

“On November 19, 2021, we announced that as of January 15, 2022, certain categories of travelers currently exempt from entry requirements will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines. approved for entry. in Canada. These groups include several providers of essential services, including truck drivers, ”the ministers said in the statement.

Days before the vaccination requirement for truck drivers goes into effect, this is the second time that federal officials appear to flip-flop on the rules in the past 24 hours, albeit in their statement the government said its position “has not changed”.

“The information shared yesterday was provided in error. Our teams have been in contact with industry representatives to ensure they have the correct information, ”the statement read.

In order to qualify as a fully immunized foreign national, non-Canadian truckers must have completed their series of authorized vaccines at least 14 days prior to entering the country and have submitted the required information through the ArriveCAN app.

Responding to earlier questions about the state of the policy, the federal government denied that it was reversing its decision, saying that because the United States was preparing to enact its own vaccination mandate for workers essential to the border, starting Jan. 22, unvaccinated Canadian truckers are expected to face restrictions once the reciprocal U.S. policy takes effect.

While truckers applauded what appeared to be a government backsliding on the mandate, organizations that spoke to CTV News before the last statement said the main problem remained reciprocal Canada-U.S. Restrictions on unvaccinated foreign drivers.

Cross-border trucking organizations have been sounding the alarm bells on policy for weeks, saying requiring drivers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 would sideline thousands of drivers, exacerbating the shortage of truckers and causing serious strains on the supply chain.

“What we really have here in the next seven to nine days is the need for Ottawa and Washington to both agree to remove their alien requirements,” Stephen Laskowski, chief of the Canadian Trucking Alliance on CTV News Channel, noting that its organization supports the vaccination of its drivers.

“It’s not a question of whether this mandate should be put in place, it’s a question of when. So let’s work together collegially on both sides of the border, understand that the supply chain is in a fragile state, and choose a date to impose such measures when the supply chain is in a stronger and stronger state than it is. ‘it is not today,’ he said.

Reacting to the government’s decision not to allow exemptions for unvaccinated truckers, Conservative transportation critic Melissa Lantsman criticized their handling of the case.

“We now have a reversal on a reversal that has brought greater uncertainty for many in the industry and an industry that has worked around the clock since the start of the pandemic, without interruption,” she said.

NDP health critic Don Davies said the Liberals’ handling of this situation has confused the industry and wondered why it took them months to implement this. Politics.

“Of course, truck drivers entering and returning to the United States must be vaccinated. We are forcing American truckers to do it, we should be applying exactly the same rules to Canadians or we are putting the economy above public health, ”Davies said.

Throughout the pandemic, the government viewed truck drivers as an essential service and, as a result, these drivers were exempt from border restrictions related to COVID-19. In defending this new mandate amid supply chain issues, the federal government has repeatedly stated that it strives to ensure the continued flow of goods while protecting the health and safety of Canadians above all else. .

“We understand that we are trying to affect public health, and we are all in favor of it, but we have to understand that truck drivers deliver medical gases to hospitals, the vaccines we need, our medicine, our food, our fuel. . And we already have a fractured supply chain and if we damage that, the supplies that we need for our own health and safety, we’re going to see a shortage, ”said Mike Millian, chairman of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, in an interview on CTV News Channel earlier Thursday.

According to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association (CME), the trucking industry transports about 80 percent of the $ 648 billion annually in Canada-U.S. Trade. The CME sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week, calling for the postponement of the mandate “to avoid a border crisis” and “catastrophic results” for Canadian businesses that depend on these supplies.

Warning of the potential cost impacts for Canadian businesses and consumers, given the amount of Canadian agri-food imports entering Canada by truck, Sylvain Charlebois, Director of the Agri-Food Analysis Laboratory at Dalhousie University, said the warrant would be “the first health measure that could disrupt trade between Canada and the United States since the start of the pandemic.”

With files from CTV News’ Mackenzie Gray