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While some Canadian universities move to mandatory vaccines, Quebec health ministry says it's not necessary

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MONTREAL -

As CEGEP and university students begin preparing for the semester ahead, some have expressed a desire for Quebec's schools to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Last week, the province's health ministry announced that post-secondary students would not be required to wear masks or physically distance once classes start and vaccinations would not be mandatory to be present. However, some extracurricular activities could be off-limits for students who are not adequately vaccinated.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Quebec's health ministry maintained that COVID-19 vaccines will, as previously announced, not be required for university and CEGEP students, saying that access to courses is an essential service.

However, they said the ministry could add “additional preventive measures... in educational institutions where vaccination rates are judged to be insufficient.”

Some universities have chosen to take extra steps; both McGill and Universite de Montreal have announced they will require students to wear masks at all times. Claire Downie, vice-president University Affairs at the Student Society of McGill University, however, praised the “fantastic policies” that can be found at some Canadian institutions, such as the University of Toronto and University of Ottawa, where being fully vaccinated is a requirement to come on campus. 

``I know on a personal level myself and many of my team members we were saying we think these are fantastic policies we just didn't know how they would apply in a Quebec landscape and I do think McGill is a leader in Quebec universities and sort of all eyes on McGill right now, I think a lot of students would be thrilled right now to see a vaccination requirement put in place,” she said.

Caroline Berard, a student at the University of Ottawa, said she would have “definitely felt less safe” if the school hadn't issued a vaccine mandate.

“I wouldn't have felt comfortable going to classes and especially because I have to back to campus, I would have really felt unsafe, I wouldn't have felt like my university was protecting me and having my best interest at heart so I really feel appreciative that my university has taken the step. ``

A spokesperson for Concordia University said the school will continue following directives from the government and public health and would not make vaccines mandatory, saying the rate of vaccination among the student body is already very high.

“Currently, vaccinations are not mandatory for Quebec university faculty, staff and students, but the government strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated – as do we. Over the past months, we have been actively promoting vaccines to our community.”

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