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Vaccine mandate for truckers will have exemptions, CBSA says

Reference: CTV News

With just days to go before a federal vaccine mandate for truck drivers is set to come into effect, the federal government says Canadian truckers will be exempt from Canada’s new rules, but are still expected to face restrictions once the reciprocal American policy comes into effect.

In a statement, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) told CTV News that “unvaccinated, or partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers arriving at the border will remain exempt from pre-arrival, on arrival and post-arrival testing and quarantine requirement.”

Previously it was understood that Canada’s vaccine mandate would require all truckers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with The Canadian Press reporting that foreign nationals would be turned away, while unvaccinated Canadian truckers would have to quarantine upon arrival.

The federal government is denying that it’s a reversal of the mandate, saying that because the United States is set to enact its own vaccine mandate for essential workers at the border, starting on Jan. 22, unvaccinated Canadian truckers are expected to be required to quarantine as part of the U.S. rules.

CBSA spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said that the mandate will still come into effect for non-Canadian truckers coming into this country at the U.S. border, requiring them to show proof of immunization or be turned around.

“Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated foreign nationals, including American truck drivers will be prohibited entry into Canada as of January 15, 2022,” Purdy said. She also noted that if drivers are able to provide evidence confirming a contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccines, they may be granted an exemption.

Industry stakeholders have said that while they support vaccination, the new Canadian policy set to come into effect on Saturday, Jan. 15, would result in approximately 10 per cent of Canada’s 120,000 drivers being taken off the roads, on top of the existing trucker shortage.

Stephen Laskowski, head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, told CTV News Channel Thursday morning that he was surprised by the update to the requirements, but said it’s a “step in the right direction.”

“The issue with regards to next week, is the Americans will apply that same rule on foreign nationals to Canadian trucks. So what we really have here in the next seven to nine days is the need for Ottawa and Washington to both agree to remove their foreign national requirements,” Laskowski said, adding that he hasn’t heard directly from the government about the state of the vaccinate mandate.

“It's not a question of if this mandate should be put in place, it's a question of when. So let's work together in a collegial manner on both sides of the border, let's understand that the supply chain is in a fragile state, and let's pick a date to impose such measures when the supply chain is in a in a more in a stronger condition than it is today,” he said.

The American Trucking Associations has estimated that just under half of the 28,000 U.S. drivers who regularly transport goods across the border would be halted by the mandate, The Canadian Press has reported.

"ATA has been working with our partners in the Canadian Trucking Alliance to seek relief from this two-way mandate... ATA now believes that fleets should prepare to comply with the impending requirements," said the organization in a statement earlier this month.

Concerns, including from the federal Conservatives, have also been raised that reducing the number of truckers—a profession that the government has considered an essential service throughout the pandemic that’s been exempted from COVID-19 border closures—will lead to serious strains on the supply chain.

“The trucking industry moves close to 80 per cent of the annual $648 billion in Canada-U.S. trade,” said the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) in a letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week, asking for the mandate to be postponed “to avoid a crisis at the border,” and “catastrophic outcomes” for Canadian companies that rely on these supplies.

Warning of potential cost impacts for Canadian businesses and consumers given how much of Canada’s agri-food imports come into Canada by truck, Sylvain Charlebois, director of the agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University, said the mandate would be “the first public health measure that could disrupt trades between Canada and the United States since the start of the pandemic.”

Facing questions Wednesday about a potential mandate postponement, federal ministers gave no indication that Canada would be backing away from the policy... Read More