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Canadian unis grapple with vaccine policies

Seneca College president David Agnew calls it one of the easiest decisions in his 12 years in the position. The college, one of Canada’s largest with 97,500 students, has announced that all students and staff must be fully vaccinated for Covid to come on campus this fall.

About 23 Canadian schools are requiring students living in residence to be vaccinated. Photo: Unsplash

Some programs are giving newly arriving students a grace period of 14 days to get their second shot after moving into residence

“Covid-19 is nasty,” he wrote in the Toronto Star newspaper. “It kills. It mutates. It will not go away until we defeat it through vaccinations. Seneca is proud to be doing its part.”

Seneca has more than 5,000 international students, although that number may have dropped since the start of the pandemic in spring 2020.

Confederation College, in Thunder Bay, Ontario, also announced that it is expecting students and employees to be fully vaccinated on campus by September 7. However, college president Kathleen Lynch has since stated this is not mandatory.

Other post-secondary institutions are not finding it so easy. About 23 Canadian schools are requiring students living in residence to be vaccinated – but are not mandating it on campus.

Students at McMaster University in Hamilton are being told to get vaccinated before they move into dormitories.

“We are working to make sure that students have as much opportunity as possible to enjoy a full residence experience,” said Sean Van Koughnett, associate vice president students and learning, and dean of students, in a statement.

“A survey of incoming residence students found that 97% said they planned to be vaccinated before the beginning of term. This is an outstanding response and requiring vaccinations aligns well with what our students are telling us.”

Western University, Trent University and Fanshawe College have all previously said they would require students to have at least a first dose to be admitted to residence.

In Canada, vaccines are free and widely available to international students, permanent residents and Canadian citizens. More than 51.5% of Canadians are currently fully vaccinated and thousands are being jabbed every day.

“While vaccination is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended”

Some programs are giving newly arriving students a grace period of 14 days to get their second shot after moving into residence – this may benefit international students from countries with limited supplies of vaccine and who have not been able to get double vaccinations.

Other schools, such as Acadia University in Nova Scotia, are encouraging vaccinations but not requiring them.

“While vaccination is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended, and we are striving to reach a fully vaccinated campus community status,” president Peter Ricketts said.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Constitutional Rights Centre, a private corporation, has threatened both Western University and Seneca with a lawsuit unless they drop vaccination requirements. The organisation said mandatory vaccinations “have no place in a constitutional democracy”.

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