Sept. 22, 2021 UPDATE: Vaccines, Passports, and Mandatory Vaccination Policies
Canadian Shield and Shining Waters Regional Councils
Recently, The United Church of Canada General Council Office provided updated legal advice for communities of faith in Ontario. On September 22, 2021 the Ontario Vaccine policy will be implemented in Ontario. The passport policy does not apply to places of worship (places of worship are exempt), however, it may apply to your meeting and event spaces. Please see the update below and direct specific regulation questions to your local public health unit for best advice. You can also reach out to your Regional Council Congregational Support Minister or Pastoral Relations Minister. (Melody Duncanson-Hales, MDuncanson-Hales@united-church.ca; Rob Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mandatory Vaccination Policy and Places of Worship verses Events Space:
Under Ontario law, worship spaces are not subject to the passport regulations. This means that you are not required by law to ask people to show proof of vaccination in order to participate in worship. Some communities of faith may decide to create their own policy regarding vaccination requirements for participation in worship.
Church Meetings and Local Outreach Ministries:
Church meetings, like board meetings (which may include volunteers or staff), are not subject to the passport regulations. This means that you are not required by law to ask staff or volunteers attending a church meeting for proof of vaccination. Local outreach ministries which provide an essential service, like Food Banks, are not subject to the passport regulations. This means that you are not required to ask staff, volunteers and participants for proof of vaccinations to access an outreach ministry (you could set your own policy). Again, you can check with your local health unit for specific advice.
Meeting Space and Rental Space:
Under the current legislation some Church events space may be subject to the passport regulations. This means that you may have to ask for proof of vaccinations for people wishing to use those spaces.
Who is responsible for verifying Passports in the case of Rental Properties?
The onus to verify is put on “the person responsible for a business or an organization.” It is a question as to who is responsible for the meeting or event spaces of a church. If the spaces are leased out to tenants, the onus is on the tenants, if they are operating a business or organization that is subject to the regulation. However, if the church itself manages the rental space (for example, rents out the gym for a wedding), the church may be the group responsible for ensuring that vaccine passports are checked. The responsibility to verify passports can be delegated to a renter.
Vaccine passports will be required for funeral and wedding receptions.
The regulation uses the term “patrons” when referring to the individuals who are required to show proof of vaccination, however, the current legislation specifically exempts “workers, contractors, repair workers, delivery workers, students, volunteers, inspectors or others who are entering the business or organization for work purposes.”
Any space rented for meeting or events could be subject to the new regulation, wedding or funeral receptions being the most specific example.
Advice for congregations and their Tenants
Again, places of worship are exempt, and that would include church meetings. However, any non-church related meetings or non-essential events could well be required to verify vaccination status of patrons attending those meetings/events (check with your local health unit). Current legal advice shared:
“If the tenants have an existing lease, they may be responsible for complying with the regulation. Churches should avoid telling tenants whether they are subject to the regulation or not: it should be up to the tenants themselves to determine and enforce current passport regulations. However, churches may want to take some steps to verify that tenants are complying, since as the landlords, they could have some liability exposure. One-time rentals may be the responsibility of the Church, depending on the terms of the rental contract. Churches should stipulate in any one-time rental contract that it is the renter who is responsible for complying with all COVID-restrictions then in place, including verifying vaccinations, as required.“
Mandatory Vaccination Policy
Current UCC legal advice: “The advice on mandatory vaccination policies has shifted since spring. The advice then was that generally the benefits of a mandatory vaccination policy didn’t outweigh the risks. The science has evolved, the government recommendations have changed, and the prevailing direction in Canada is towards mandatory vaccination, with very limited exceptions.” New advice is “not implementing mandatory vaccination policies in a workplace is now the riskier choice, since the obligation of employers to provide a safe workplace outweighs the chance of a human rights code violation or other infringement on the individual.”
References, Regulations or Examples:
From a regulatory perspective, O. Reg 364/20 requires that, “The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials operate in the compliance with the advice / recommendations of the health units.” Some health units have recommended that employers implement a mandatory vaccination policy.
For example, Toronto Public Health announced August 20, 2021 that it now “strongly recommends” that employers implement mandatory vaccinations in their workplace: https://www.toronto.ca/news/toronto-medical-officer-of-health-strongly-recommending-toronto-employers-institute-covid-19-vaccination-policy-and-support-workplace-vaccination/
North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit “encourages businesses to create their own vaccine policies:”
• O. Reg 645/21 which amends O. Reg 364/20 re proof of vaccinations: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r21645
• O. Reg 364/20 which will be amended as of Sept 22 to include the new requirements: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r21645
• Guidance on vaccine passports: https://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/guidance_proof_of_vaccination_for_businesses_and_organizations.pdf
Here are the CSRC Recommendations for re-opening your building:
CSRC Recommendations for Re-Opening Church Buildings
We continue to hold all of you in our prayers.
Canadian Shield Regional Council
The UCC and Vaccines
As people consider returning to church in the fall, ministry personnel and Communities of Faith naturally have questions about how to safely be together once again.
One of the many concerns that has surfaced is whether Communities of Faith can require worshippers and staff to be vaccinated before returning to in-person gatherings.
Regarding whether the Community of Faith can require its employees to be vaccinated prior to returning to the workplace, the United Church of Canada legal counsel says:
“Non-health care employers cannot refuse worksite access to non-vaccinated employees. In fact, currently refusing to allow a non-vaccinated employee, who has passed the screening protocol, entry into the workplace currently bears the risk of a finding of constructive dismissal against the employer, with ensuing wrongful dismissal damages owing to the former employee.”
COMMUNITIES OF FAITH
As for community members attending worship, General Council states that while it may be reasonable for Communities of Faith to implement mandatory vaccination policies, they will need to be mindful of the consequences and will need to give thought to accommodations where necessary. There are also significant privacy concerns that would need to be considered. Any policy that restricts access to a service needs to be reasoned and coherent, and would need to demonstrate why the policy is necessary and proportionate to mandatory requirements that it is imposing. In other words, if there are safe alternatives, or the requirement is not proportionate to the benefit, it may not be acceptable or advisable to have such a policy.
If you are a Community of Faith looking for assistance, please contact Melody Duncanson Hales at email@example.com
If you are an M&P Committee looking for support, please contact Rob Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyond the letter of the law, as people of faith, we are called to uphold the whole community and contribute wherever we can to well-being and safety. After such a long time of being apart, we understand the desire to come together for worship, but also the questions this coming together poses. It is important for Communities of Faith to assess for themselves when they are able to offer in-person worship safely.
We are mindful of all the ways communities of faith have continued to be the church, even while not being able to gather, and we continue to hold all of you in our prayers.
Canadian Shield Regional Council Staff
CSRC Staff Lead
Our Emergency Coordinator for Canadian Shield Regional Council is Rob Smith. He will facilitate coordination in the event of an emergency. Please ensure that someone from your community of faith signs up for the Emergency Preparedness Committee. For more details and to sign up, please scroll down to the bottom of this page. Thank you!
Pastoral Relations Minister
Canadian Shield Regional Council
Phone: 705-474-3350 | 1-833-236-0281
Reopening: Canadian Shield Regional Council
- Moving Forward: Living Faithfully! Recommendations from Canadian Shield Regional Council to assist communities of faith in planning for the safe reopening of their buildings and in-person continuation of their ministries Sept. 15, 2020
- Letter to Premier Ford on reopening churches in Ontario May 21, 2020
Reopening: Wider United Church Resources
- Reopening Churches Safety Considerations from The United Church of Canada
- More on Opening Our Buildings PDF of Slides from United in Learning Webinar June 4, 2020
- Reopening Checklist Template for Communities of Faith a resource shared from Antler River Watershed, Western Ontario Waterways and Horseshoe Falls Regional Councils, July 2020
- Considerations for Reopening Churches PDF of Slides from United in Learning Webinar May 28, 2020
- A Discerning Process for Reopening from Living Skies Region a resource for groups to walk through a decision-making process, June 1, 2020
Reopening: General Articles
- Letter from the Covid 19 Health Unit Response Team – NBPSD Health Unit, Oct. 23, 2020
- Resuming Care-Filled Worship and Sacramental Life During a Pandemic The Ecumenical Consultation on Protocols for Worship, Fellowship and Sacraments. Includes detailed guidance on all aspects of liturgies including baptisms and communion.
- ‘You don’t want to be the priest that kills off your congregation’: Is Ontario opening houses of worship too quickly? Toronto Star article by Bruce Arthur, June 11, 2020
- Does singing spread coronavirus? Choir outbreaks raise concerns CTV News, May 17, 2020
- NATS Panel of Experts Lays Out Sobering Future for Singers: “No Vaccine, No Safe Public Singing”. The report of a panel assembled by the professional singing teachers and choir directors. May 6, 2020
- Why Reopening a Church is Different Article from Lewis Center for Church Leadership by Alex Shanks, May 27, 2020
- So Your Church is Opening Up After COVID-19 Closures? It won’t be what you’re hoping for. The Rev. Erik Parker
May 26, 2020
Public Health Links
- North Simcoe – Muskoka, Updated July 22, 2020
- Peel, Updated July 29, 2020
- Toronto August 17, 2020
- York Region, June 2020
- Develop Your Covid 19 Workplace Safety Plan
- Reopening Ontario
- COVID-19 Advice: Religious Services, Rites or Ceremonies Ministry of Health, August 21, 2020
- Health Information for Community Agencies
- Workplace Safety & Prevention and COVID-19
- Attending Services in Motor Vehicles amendment to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act May 16 More information from Canadian Council of Christian Charities
Employment Guidance for Communities of Faith during COVID-19 PLEASE READ THIS DOCUMENT FIRST Updated September 8, 2020
GCE Extends Temporary Amendment of ByLaws re: Pastoral Relations for urgent decisions related to call or appointment. Updated August 27, 2020 GCE web page for original decision Temporarily Amends Pastoral Relations Policies
ADP United in Learning Webinar, 04.14.20 Slides from webinar.
Congregational Finances and COVID-19 What Churches can do right now Updated June 10, 2020.
CanadaHelps and The United Church United in Learning Webinar May 28, 2020
United Church of Canada Emergency Support April 27, 2020 Information on denominational ways to bridge the financial strain on communities of faith and link to loan application form.
Governance in Congregations during COVID-19 April 16, 2020
Toronto United Church Council TUCC COVID-19 April Update includes the Investing in Ministry Fund, camping ministries, Innovative Ministry Centre, the Centre for Church Development and Leadership and property management information. April 13, 2020
Generosity in Unprecedented Times Practical, recommended, tools to invite an ongoing commitment from the Philantrhropy Unit, March 28, 2020
Outline for a Zoom gathering at the time of death, shared by Karen Hilfman, April 28, 2020
Grieving and Remembering at Home, ideas from Susie Henderson, April 28, 2020
Moderator Asks to delay funerals March 24, 2020
6 Tips to Avoid “Zoom Fatigue” in the Age of COVID-19, by Leah D. Schade April 3, 2020
Talking with Children about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Talking Points from Jeffrey Dale, Shining Waters Regional Council March 20, 2020
How to Talk to Children About the Coronavirus Pandemic by Alan Wolfelt at the Center for Loss and Life Transition, March 19, 2020
Things That Matter YouTube Channel by Diane Strickland
Pastoral Care for Grieving Families A Google Doc from our partner church in the U.S. The United Church of Christ
Responsive Prayer Model for On-Line Funeral Google Doc from the United Church of Christ
Community of Faith Emergency Contact – Emergency Preparedness Committee
The region will continue to communicate to Communities of Faith through our traditional contacts, generally an administrative e-mail with each community of faith. If you have an additional contact for our list, for example a community of faith Emergency Response team leader, please use the following form to add them to our mailing list.
The United Church of Canada’s emergency preparedness plan asks that each community of faith/pastoral charge establish an Emergency Preparedness Committee. The Committee serves as the link between the region and the community of faith(s) for communications during an emergency. Please register your committee contact information below. Thank you.