Ottawa to consider vaccine mandate exemptions for some remote Indigenous communities

Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, is one of 182 difficult-to-access communities where the exemption could apply. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Exemptions could apply to remote communities where travel is only possible by air

The federal government is working on exemptions to its newly released mandatory vaccine policy for people in remote Indigenous communities, many of which are only accessible by air.

The new policy calls for travellers over the age of 12 to provide proof they’ve received two doses of a Health Canada-approved vaccine at least 14 days before boarding a plane or train.

Those travellers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 30.

There are 182 communities that have been assessed by Transport Canada or the provinces and territories as “remote.”

The vast majority are so isolated they can be reached only by plane, and essential services like medical visits are not accessible by any other means of transportation.

Accommodations could include asking for a negative molecular COVID-19 test, rather than proof of full vaccination, according to a statement from the office of federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

Meetings underway to explore solutions

Government officials are meeting with Indigenous organizations and representatives of provincial and territorial governments to come up with a solution before the new policy comes into effect at the end of the month.

The federal government will also make vaccines mandatory for people travelling on trains and marine vessels.

Federal public servants and RCMP officers will also be required to follow the new mandate by the end of the month.

Starting on Oct. 30, all employers in federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors will be required to implement mandatory vaccination policies for workers within their organizations.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: ‘Waning immunity’ a factor in COVID-19 outbreak in Canada’s Northwest Territories, says top doc, CBC News

Greenland: Greenland lifts COVID-19 restrictions on direct travel to small communities, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland to change COVID-19 border rules on October 1, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Rural Alaska at risk as COVID-19 surge swamps faraway hospitals, The Associated Press

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