As a string of Canadian universities and colleges prohibit unvaccinated students from attending their studies, UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith says she would make it illegal for post-secondary schools to implement a vaccine mandate.
On Monday, Smith posted a “promise to students” on social media detailing her proposed policy.
“As Premier, I will make it illegal for post-secondary institutions to deny students access or otherwise sanction them based on their vaccination status,” Smith said in a tweet.
“In addition, there will be no further shutting down of in-person classes at our post-secondary institutions.”
Smith said it was “wrong for Alberta to deny access and sanction post-secondary students for choosing not to be vaccinated.”
Last year, a handful of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions, including the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, Mount Royal University and others, implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and staff.
In February, Alberta’s Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides urged post-secondary schools not to implement a mandate for the spring term.
“Essentially, post-secondary institutions will have the full ability to return to pre-pandemic delivery without the need to enforce physical distancing, implement proof of vaccination programs and masking effective March 1,” Nicolaides wrote. He also said the final decision was up to each school.
“[Every] board of governors is empowered and charged to make the decision that’s best for the institution. So, that’s their call at the end of the day. I think it’s important for my position as minister to let them know where government is going and where government would like to see our institutions get to.”
On Saturday, hundreds of Western University students in Ontario protested the school’s recent vaccine mandate ruling.
“This year, students are really upset, and they are seeing that you don’t have to wear a mask anywhere pretty well now, you don’t have to get the vaccine, you don’t have to show proof, but you have to do that at Western in order to continue your schooling at,” said organizer Hannah Salamon-Vegh.
“And they also announced it after we had to pay our tuition. So that especially makes students upset.”
Western University said it would refund any students who refuse to comply with its mandate. Yet, many remain upset with the edict, announced just weeks before the Fall semester.
The university has not offered a full refund for courses taken in previous years. These courses could go towards a degree at another institution, but there’s no guarantee the student or course credit transfer will be accepted — potentially rendering the classes useless. Western also won’t cover new application fees.