A senior military commander in Western Canada says he doesn’t expect much opposition from Canadian Forces personnel over mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
Ottawa demands that federal employees, including the military, be fully immunized by the end of this month. The government also expects employers in federally regulated industries, including banks and airlines, to do the same.
Brig.-Gen. Bill Fletcher, who is in charge of the 3rd Canadian Division Western Canada, oversees the training of Canadian soldiers and Pacific Ocean operations in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
There are nearly 12,000 regular and reserve forces under its control.
“The government has made it clear that we will follow the same direction the government has given the public service and that we will enforce mandatory vaccines across the Canadian military,” Fletcher said in an interview from his office. in Edmonton.
A member of the Canadian Armed Forces is featured in a long-term care home in Laval, Que., In April 2020 (Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press)
He said more than 90 percent of the Canadian military are already doubly vaccinated and that he is not worried about the decline of what he calls a small percentage.
“We had already dealt with the implication for deployments … of unvaccinated people entering a hot environment with COVID or entering an international setting where the host country declared: ‘you will be doubly vaccinated’,” he said. declared. noted.
“These people ultimately have to decide if they will be vaccinated.”
He said he could not comment on what would happen to staff who are not vaccinated. But the federal government has said officials will be put on administrative leave without pay if they are not vaccinated by October 29.
Fletcher said the response to COVID-19 has been a learning process for the Canadian Forces because it was “nothing that no one has ever talked about in any of my military training.”
Help with vaccine distribution
Members of the military, he added, have helped both with pandemic assistance and the distribution of vaccines across the country.
Some calls for help included outbreaks of COVID-19 in remote northern communities such as Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba, Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation in Saskatchewan and Fort Nelson First Nation in British Columbia.
Fletcher said it was positive for the mental health of military personnel to be able to help during the pandemic because sitting at home with their families during the early stages “aged quite quickly.”
“These are women and men who did not join in to sit at home. It started to take its toll, I think, from a mental health point of view, certainly from a training point of view. “said Fletcher.
“We had soldiers considering being released… so that we could respond on behalf of Canadians. So I think it was very cathartic. We went back to doing what the soldiers wanted to do.