Should COVID-19 vaccinations be mandatory for all hospital workers? Doug Ford is asking

Should Ontario make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all hospital workers?Premier Doug Ford asked that question of hospital bosses and health care experts in a letter sent Friday, citing trade-offs between potential outbreaks and shortages of staff because some workers will quit or be fired over refusals to get the jab. “This is a very complex issue with real risks on either side,” Ford told a news conference Friday, again urging all health workers to get their jabs. Critics said it’s a little late to be asking, given that Ontario has made two COVID-19 shots mandatory for nursing-home workers effective Nov. 15, and warned the question risks undermining mandatory vaccination policies in effect at a number of Ontario’s hospital systems, including Toronto’s University Health Network and Windsor Regional Hospital.“It makes no sense that Doug Ford would mandate vaccines in nursing homes but not hospitals. Both environments deal with vulnerable patients,” Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca told the Star.“If action is needed to support staffing, so be it, but the mandate is critical to protect our most vulnerable. Had he worked with hospitals earlier, instead of waiting until October, there could have been a plan.”But Ford said he needs to make sure that hospitals, particularly in rural and remote areas, can ensure adequate staffing if a province-wide vaccination mandate is put in place.“The issue of how best to protect our hospitals has once again come up as we’ve seen Quebec delay the implementation of their vaccine mandate for hospital workers, with B.C. softening theirs,” Ford added, noting that about 15 per cent of workers in the Ontario health system remain unvaccinated. Mandatory shots could result in staff losses “in the tens of thousands,” the premier said.“It’s easy to go out and say, you know, ‘Fire everyone’” who refuses vaccination,” he said. “”But I go back to, how’s this going to affect your backlogged surgery?”Appearing with Ford at the news conference, chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore said all health-care workers should consider it their “duty” to be vaccinated.“For 48 hours before you could have symptoms, you could be carrying that virus and transmitting it,” Moore warned. “We can all have the best infection prevention and control practices, but we see there are ongoing gaps and risks to our patients.”Ford’s letter comes two weeks after the Ontario Hospital Association said the vaccination mandate for nursing-home workers makes “a consistent approach to health care worker vaccination ... urgently needed to maintain adequate staffing levels.”That’s because health-care workers would not be able to quit employers with mandates and go to work at facilities or services that don’t have them.Hospitals that have instituted mandatory vaccinations have suggested staff losses would be lower than from potential outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, and that the mandate is essential to protect patients.New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Ford could quickly bolster health-care staffing by repealing Bill 124, which caps wages for nurses, among others, and should require vaccinations for health and education workers.“COVID 19 is a very sneaky virus and it will find its path wherever protections are not in place,” she saidIndependent MPP Roman Baber, who was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus earlier this year for questioning lockdowns, said the premier’s hospital letter acknowledges a developing problem.“For the last few months, I have been calling on Doug Ford to defend the choice of Ontario’s health-care workers. Sounds like the premier is starting to listen,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of Ontario workers, in all fields and professions, are facing unemployment. Doug Ford must prevent this catastrophe.”Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario said her group supports mandatory vaccinations for all health-care workers to prevent a potential “fifth wave” of the pandemic as more activities move indoors for the winter.“It needs to be across the board,” Grinspun said.Ford brushed aside a question on why he has not removed MPP Lindsey Park (Durham) from the PC caucus after she “misrepresented” her vaccination status before claiming a medical exemption.“I’ve accepted it and I’m not wrong,” Ford said of the exemption, which Park has not commented on despite repeated requests from the Star for an interview in the last two weeks.“I saw the letters and they were signed by a physician in good standing with the College of Physicians,” he added, referring to an exemption claimed by another of his MPPs, Christina Mitas (Scarborough Centre). “I’m not going to discuss private health matters.”Given the extremely narrow range of medical conditions that qualify for vaccination exemptions, Moore has said the incidence should be no more than five people in 100,000. There are two exemptions in Ford’s caucus of 70 MPPs. Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter

Should COVID-19 vaccinations be mandatory for all hospital workers? Doug Ford is asking

Should Ontario make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all hospital workers?

Premier Doug Ford asked that question of hospital bosses and health care experts in a letter sent Friday, citing trade-offs between potential outbreaks and shortages of staff because some workers will quit or be fired over refusals to get the jab.

“This is a very complex issue with real risks on either side,” Ford told a news conference Friday, again urging all health workers to get their jabs.

Critics said it’s a little late to be asking, given that Ontario has made two COVID-19 shots mandatory for nursing-home workers effective Nov. 15, and warned the question risks undermining mandatory vaccination policies in effect at a number of Ontario’s hospital systems, including Toronto’s University Health Network and Windsor Regional Hospital.

“It makes no sense that Doug Ford would mandate vaccines in nursing homes but not hospitals. Both environments deal with vulnerable patients,” Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca told the Star.

“If action is needed to support staffing, so be it, but the mandate is critical to protect our most vulnerable. Had he worked with hospitals earlier, instead of waiting until October, there could have been a plan.”

But Ford said he needs to make sure that hospitals, particularly in rural and remote areas, can ensure adequate staffing if a province-wide vaccination mandate is put in place.

“The issue of how best to protect our hospitals has once again come up as we’ve seen Quebec delay the implementation of their vaccine mandate for hospital workers, with B.C. softening theirs,” Ford added, noting that about 15 per cent of workers in the Ontario health system remain unvaccinated.

Mandatory shots could result in staff losses “in the tens of thousands,” the premier said.

“It’s easy to go out and say, you know, ‘Fire everyone’” who refuses vaccination,” he said. “”But I go back to, how’s this going to affect your backlogged surgery?”

Appearing with Ford at the news conference, chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore said all health-care workers should consider it their “duty” to be vaccinated.

“For 48 hours before you could have symptoms, you could be carrying that virus and transmitting it,” Moore warned. “We can all have the best infection prevention and control practices, but we see there are ongoing gaps and risks to our patients.”

Ford’s letter comes two weeks after the Ontario Hospital Association said the vaccination mandate for nursing-home workers makes “a consistent approach to health care worker vaccination ... urgently needed to maintain adequate staffing levels.”

That’s because health-care workers would not be able to quit employers with mandates and go to work at facilities or services that don’t have them.

Hospitals that have instituted mandatory vaccinations have suggested staff losses would be lower than from potential outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, and that the mandate is essential to protect patients.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said Ford could quickly bolster health-care staffing by repealing Bill 124, which caps wages for nurses, among others, and should require vaccinations for health and education workers.

“COVID 19 is a very sneaky virus and it will find its path wherever protections are not in place,” she said

Independent MPP Roman Baber, who was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus earlier this year for questioning lockdowns, said the premier’s hospital letter acknowledges a developing problem.

“For the last few months, I have been calling on Doug Ford to defend the choice of Ontario’s health-care workers. Sounds like the premier is starting to listen,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of Ontario workers, in all fields and professions, are facing unemployment. Doug Ford must prevent this catastrophe.”

Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario said her group supports mandatory vaccinations for all health-care workers to prevent a potential “fifth wave” of the pandemic as more activities move indoors for the winter.

“It needs to be across the board,” Grinspun said.

Ford brushed aside a question on why he has not removed MPP Lindsey Park (Durham) from the PC caucus after she “misrepresented” her vaccination status before claiming a medical exemption.

“I’ve accepted it and I’m not wrong,” Ford said of the exemption, which Park has not commented on despite repeated requests from the Star for an interview in the last two weeks.

“I saw the letters and they were signed by a physician in good standing with the College of Physicians,” he added, referring to an exemption claimed by another of his MPPs, Christina Mitas (Scarborough Centre). “I’m not going to discuss private health matters.”

Given the extremely narrow range of medical conditions that qualify for vaccination exemptions, Moore has said the incidence should be no more than five people in 100,000. There are two exemptions in Ford’s caucus of 70 MPPs.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Source : Toronto Star More   

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‘They’re gagging people’: New Brunswick orders halt to Indigenous land acknowledgments — and faces a national backlash

Julianna Peter-Paul says it’s “just one more thing” the government of New Brunswick has done to her people “that will have to be reconciled later.”The 27-year-old from the Metepenagiag Miꞌkmaq Nation, who works part-time for the provincial archives, was stunned this week when the province ordered all government employees to stop giving land acknowledgments recognizing unceded Indigenous lands.Behind the order, lies litigation. New Brunswick is facing a massive Indigenous title claim, filed last October, in which the Wolastoqey Nation calls for acknowledgment of its traditional and ongoing right to land covering more than half the province.In the face of that legal action, government lawyers have advised provincial employees to stop acknowledging they are on First Nations land.Peter-Paul posted a response to Facebook on Friday, saying it’s the land that Indigenous people want to see in their care, not just a symbolic acknowledgment.But by banning the acknowledgment — the “bare minimum,” she called it — the government of New Brunswick is moving in the wrong direction in its relationship with Indigenous people. “It’s a matter of taking those steps to having what is inherently ours back,” Peter-Paul told the Star. “I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime, but we want to live in peace and friendship just as much as they (the government) do.”The memo said the order covered land or territorial acknowledgments during meetings and events, in documents and in email signatures. Employees can make reference to ancestral territory but not use the terms “unceded” or “unsurrendered,” the memo said.Reaction came Friday not just from Peter-Paul — but from across the country.Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett tweeted Friday that she disapproved of the New Brunswick Conservative government’s decision, calling it “disappointing and not in the spirit of reconciliation.” The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation issued a statement saying they were deeply disappointed by the new policy. They said their title claim was made because the government continues to make decisions involving their traditional territory — including approving resource projects — without properly consulting the nation. The nation says it does not seek to assume ownership of property now owned by farmers and other residents in the province, but it does want the government to acknowledge its title.“What they’re asking employees to do is take sides in a negotiation,” said Chief Patricia Bernard of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. “It’s astonishing that this is the legal advice they’re getting because they’re gagging people from saying specific words.”Bernard said she thinks it could backfire on the province, as Indigenous and non-Indigenous civil servants who may not have been aware of the Wolastoqey title claim may now view the government’s approach as unreasonable.Kate Gunn, a partner with First Peoples Law group, said that the memo is a signal that the government is prioritizing its legal position over its relationships with First Nations in the province.“In doing this the way they did, there is a possibility it can damage that relationship,” she said. Gunn said civil cases between governments and First Nations are not like other civil proceedings — governments are expected to work with nations as much as possible outside of court.“If they are not allowing people to do a land acknowledgment it doesn’t speak well to the government’s commitment to reconciliation,” she said. The Wolastoqey Nation signed Treaties of Peace and Friendship with the British Crown in the 18th century, which they say was an agreement to share and co-operate on — but not cede — their traditional territory. Dozens of New Brunswickers heeded a call from the Wolastoqey Nation over Facebook to post a land acknowledgement on that platform.“Say it loud,” the post, copied dozens of times by Friday evening reads, “I acknowledge that the lands on which New Brunswick is situated are the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Wǝlastǝkwiyik/Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Mi'kmaq/Mi'kmaw and Peskotomuhkatiyik/Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy).”The chiefs of the nine Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick said land acknowledgments are largely a symbolic gesture but represent a starting point toward building and improving a relationship with First Nations — and that removing them represents “a new low” in relations with the province.“It is hard to see how a government directive to employees to avoid taking even that bare minimum step has us moving forward on a path of reconciliation and partnership,” they wrote.Chelsea Vowel, an assistant lecturer at the faculty of native studies at the University of Alberta, called the government’s directive a “hostile” move.“These territorial acknowledgments were first brought forward by Aboriginal Peoples but they’ve been co-opted by institutions and politicians as a way to pay literal lip service to Indigenous Nations without actually doing anyth

‘They’re gagging people’: New Brunswick orders halt to Indigenous land acknowledgments — and faces a national backlash

Julianna Peter-Paul says it’s “just one more thing” the government of New Brunswick has done to her people “that will have to be reconciled later.”

The 27-year-old from the Metepenagiag Miꞌkmaq Nation, who works part-time for the provincial archives, was stunned this week when the province ordered all government employees to stop giving land acknowledgments recognizing unceded Indigenous lands.

Behind the order, lies litigation. New Brunswick is facing a massive Indigenous title claim, filed last October, in which the Wolastoqey Nation calls for acknowledgment of its traditional and ongoing right to land covering more than half the province.

In the face of that legal action, government lawyers have advised provincial employees to stop acknowledging they are on First Nations land.

Peter-Paul posted a response to Facebook on Friday, saying it’s the land that Indigenous people want to see in their care, not just a symbolic acknowledgment.

But by banning the acknowledgment — the “bare minimum,” she called it — the government of New Brunswick is moving in the wrong direction in its relationship with Indigenous people.

“It’s a matter of taking those steps to having what is inherently ours back,” Peter-Paul told the Star. “I don’t know if I’ll see it in my lifetime, but we want to live in peace and friendship just as much as they (the government) do.”

The memo said the order covered land or territorial acknowledgments during meetings and events, in documents and in email signatures. Employees can make reference to ancestral territory but not use the terms “unceded” or “unsurrendered,” the memo said.

Reaction came Friday not just from Peter-Paul — but from across the country.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett tweeted Friday that she disapproved of the New Brunswick Conservative government’s decision, calling it “disappointing and not in the spirit of reconciliation.”

The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation issued a statement saying they were deeply disappointed by the new policy. They said their title claim was made because the government continues to make decisions involving their traditional territory — including approving resource projects — without properly consulting the nation. The nation says it does not seek to assume ownership of property now owned by farmers and other residents in the province, but it does want the government to acknowledge its title.

“What they’re asking employees to do is take sides in a negotiation,” said Chief Patricia Bernard of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. “It’s astonishing that this is the legal advice they’re getting because they’re gagging people from saying specific words.”

Bernard said she thinks it could backfire on the province, as Indigenous and non-Indigenous civil servants who may not have been aware of the Wolastoqey title claim may now view the government’s approach as unreasonable.

Kate Gunn, a partner with First Peoples Law group, said that the memo is a signal that the government is prioritizing its legal position over its relationships with First Nations in the province.

“In doing this the way they did, there is a possibility it can damage that relationship,” she said.

Gunn said civil cases between governments and First Nations are not like other civil proceedings — governments are expected to work with nations as much as possible outside of court.

“If they are not allowing people to do a land acknowledgment it doesn’t speak well to the government’s commitment to reconciliation,” she said.

The Wolastoqey Nation signed Treaties of Peace and Friendship with the British Crown in the 18th century, which they say was an agreement to share and co-operate on — but not cede — their traditional territory.

Dozens of New Brunswickers heeded a call from the Wolastoqey Nation over Facebook to post a land acknowledgement on that platform.

“Say it loud,” the post, copied dozens of times by Friday evening reads, “I acknowledge that the lands on which New Brunswick is situated are the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Wǝlastǝkwiyik/Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Mi'kmaq/Mi'kmaw and Peskotomuhkatiyik/Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy).”

The chiefs of the nine Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick said land acknowledgments are largely a symbolic gesture but represent a starting point toward building and improving a relationship with First Nations — and that removing them represents “a new low” in relations with the province.

“It is hard to see how a government directive to employees to avoid taking even that bare minimum step has us moving forward on a path of reconciliation and partnership,” they wrote.

Chelsea Vowel, an assistant lecturer at the faculty of native studies at the University of Alberta, called the government’s directive a “hostile” move.

“These territorial acknowledgments were first brought forward by Aboriginal Peoples but they’ve been co-opted by institutions and politicians as a way to pay literal lip service to Indigenous Nations without actually doing anything by giving land back or addressing outstanding claims,” she said in an interview Friday.

“They clearly see land acknowledgment as an admission of guilt,” she added. “It’s really the only reason why they would caution their employees against using it.”

Peter-Paul said she doesn’t want to use the banned language anyways. The words “unceded” and “unsurrendered,” to her ears, are additions made by a colonial government.

When she speaks of the land, she’ll just refer to the Mi'kmaw, Wolastoqiyik, and Peskotomuhkatiyik territory, no additions needed.

“There are a lot of people who want to have their rights back and want to see the land and take care of the land,” she said. “There’s a lot of healing that can be done for the people on the land.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Source : Toronto Star More   

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