COCA: Proof of vaccination mandate to shift B.C. culture

Journal of Commerce | Russell Hixson | August 31, 2021

Starting Sept. 13, life for B.C. residents will change when proof of vaccination requirements mandated by health officials go into effect.

While construction sites were not specifically mentioned by the provincial order, Council of Construction Associations president Dave Baspaly said the requirements represent a major shift.

According to the province, people will be required to show proof of vaccination to attend some social events, businesses and recreational activities.

By Oct. 24, entry to these settings will require people to be fully vaccinated at least seven days after receiving both doses. To enter certain spaces, including indoor ticketed sporting events, indoor and patio dining in restaurants, fitness centres, casinos and indoor organized events, like conferences and weddings, people aged 12 and older will be required to show their proof of vaccination.

The province noted individual businesses or event organizers may also implement these requirements earlier as part of their ongoing safety plans. Businesses or institutions choosing to adopt their own vaccination policies beyond those set out in this order will be responsible for doing their own due diligence.

Baspaly explained WorkSafeBC wants employers to ensure they have safe work environments and has been reminding workers that the right to refuse unsafe work includes areas of high infection risk. This includes clusters of workers in confined spaces.

“That creates an ability for employers to say they need to know and workers to say they don’t want to work with those who aren’t vaccinated,” said Baspaly. “The passport the province has issued will start to change the culture, we believe.”

He applauded efforts from construction associations who have embraced the measures and even have cancelled some upcoming in-person conferences and events to be safe.

“We are starting to see leadership in the construction sector. There is really no tolerance for anybody who is taking risks or engaging in risky behaviour.”

Baspaly said he expects some of the larger prime contractors to begin stricter measures as they have large workforces and large sites that increase the probability of an infection. This could mean requiring subtrades to prove vaccination onsite or simply moving workers who won’t disclose vaccination status to lower risk areas.

“The employer is on more solid footing to take aggressive actions to protect their worksites,” he said.

But with some claiming the measures violate their civil liberties, Baspaly believes eventually the issue will come to a head in the courts.

“With seeing vaccine passports and bold action from employers and a willingness by some to potentially challenge things in the courts, inevitably someone will take it through the system,” he said.

But Baspaly believes the province will win in the end as legal briefs show significant precedent for suspending some rights to protect public health and safety. He cited other vaccinations throughout Canadian history as well as military conscription during times of war.

“The idea is to find a balance and we will see how the courts react to the current world but it looks pretty strong,” he said. “Right now we are between two points. It is a shared responsibility for everyone. We have to find the balance between living a life and having safeguards to protect everyone.”