Sophie Demers - LJI Reporter
Most post-secondary institutions in Quebec have not mandated vaccination for students, teachers and staff on campus for this school year. Instead, most institutions are opting to encourage students to get vaccinated and hosting vaccine clinics on campus. However, for extracurricular activities and certain non-essential services, some universities are asking students to be vaccinated to participate.
On August 1, groups of McGill students protested the university’s Covid-19 safety guidelines and wanted to see a vaccine mandate.
When asked about the safety measures and mandatory vaccines, a student at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) said “I’m surprisingly satisfied with the safety measures. There are surgical mask stations so we can change them every four hours; hand sanitizing stations are everywhere; and we have to book a spot to study or train in the gym if we wish to use those services. But, yes, I believe vaccines should be mandatory. The vaccine is the only thing that can bring life back to normal.”
On August 17, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that CEGEP and university students will be required to wear masks while in class, not just in common areas. The regulations also state that there will be no mandatory social distance in classrooms; however, in common areas, students are asked to physically distance. “Under Quebec law, people have the right to refuse to undergo a recommended medical procedure unless otherwise provided for in law,” said a statement from the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal at McGill University. “In the absence of specific legal authorization, mandatory vaccination can be justified legally only if other reasonable means are insufficiently effective to ensure the health and safety of the community. We are confident in the health and safety measures we have put in place at the university, and they have proven effective.”
Andrew Kirk, President of McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT) and professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, stated, “On August 15, our association called on the university to implement a vaccine mandate for anyone wishing to access campus spaces.” He added, “At present, a vaccine passport is required at McGill to access ‘non-essential’ spaces such as dining rooms, sports facilities, etc. However, this does not protect students and staff from unvaccinated people in classrooms and teaching laboratories, where they may be exposed for long periods of time. Other universities in Canada have implemented such a mandate and we do not understand why McGill is unwilling to adequately protect its people. We also have concerns about air quality and overcrowding.”