The Senate of Canada will require all Senators who attend in-person meetings of the chamber to be fully vaccinated.
A day earlier, Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole announced a similar policy for his caucus, which includes MPs sitting in the House of Commons and Senators.
Senate Speaker George Furey said in a statement on Thursday that the decision, effective Nov. 22, was made after consultation with the leaders and facilitators of all recognized parties and parliamentary groups.
The House of Commons is scheduled to sit on Nov. 22 for the first time since the summer recess began in June, but the Senate has not yet announced when it will resume. The government typically delivers a speech from the Throne in the Senate chamber on the second sitting day after an election.
Mr. Furey added in his statement that those with a medical exemption will have the option of providing proof of a recent negative result in a COVID-19 rapid antigen test.
He said the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration will meet soon to discuss a vaccination policy for staff.
Asked if all Senators support the policy, Mr. Furey’s spokesman said the decisions were made in consultation with the leaders and facilitators of all recognized Senate groups and parties to meet recommendations from public health authorities.
“The measures set forth in the statement were based upon consensus and collaboration among Senate leadership,” Ross Ryan said in a statement.
Mr. Ryan did not rule out hybrid participation in Senate hearings that would allow all Senators to dial in from offsite.
“Any decision regarding how the Senate carries out its core functions will follow discussions with Senate leadership and must ultimately be taken by the Senate as a whole,” he said, adding that talks on this and other issues will happen in due course.
Mr. O’Toole said this week that members of his party who enter the House of Commons once Parliament resumes will be vaccinated against COVID-19 – but he declined to say how many of his MPs have not yet received the shots.
Conservative MPs, he said, had agreed to “respect and abide by new rules which require Parliamentarians attending the House of Commons to be vaccinated.” However, Mr. O’Toole said, the Conservatives will formally challenge those rules, which apply to MPs, their staff, political-research employees, journalists and others.
Mr. O’Toole’s comments leave open the possibility that some Conservative MPs will remain unvaccinated and not attend in-person sittings, but he declined to address that directly.
On Thursday, Conservative Senator Don Plett, the leader of the Opposition in the Senate, participated in the discussion of the issue and the agreement among Senate leaders, his spokesperson, Karine Leroux, said in a statement.
She declined to comment further on the matter.
Yuen Pau Woo, a senator from British Columbia and facilitator of the Independent Senators Group (ISG), which has 43 members, said in a statement that the group supports the Speaker’s vaccination mandate policy.
The statement, issued by spokesperson Ro Izzetpanah, said all members of the group have been double vaccinated.
The ISG is the largest group in the Senate and was formed after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, early in his first mandate, began appointing independent senators in line with his policy to make the Red Chamber non-partisan.
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