The Department of National Defence (DND) has confirmed that unvaccinated members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who have not received exemptions or accommodations for the COVID-19 vaccine could face serious consequences for their careers. 

According to a DND spokesperson, the vaccination mandate that went into effect in October applies to all CAF members “whether they telework or not,” and that those who do not comply with the order could be “subject to remedial measures and other potential administrative action.”

“Additionally, a Canadian Armed Forces member’s unvaccinated status may have additional consequential career implications, including loss of opportunities contributing to promotion, which are outside of Canadian Armed Forces control,” the DND spokesperson told True North. 

“Examples may include the inability to attend career courses, deployments, domestic and international exercises, and OUTCAN (outside-of-Canada) postings owing to domestic and international travel restrictions and other nations’ entry requirements.”

True North was shown an unclassified National Defence document by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. The document outlines the treatments to which unvaccinated men and women in uniform are currently being subject. 

It notes that unvaccinated CAF members “will not be granted voluntary release of (leave without pay) or (exemption from duty and training) to avoid administrative action related to this directive.” 

As exclusively reported by True North in November, unvaccinated soldiers could ultimately be facing an “unsuitable for further service” release from the CAF which would remain on their military record.

The unclassified document also states that the deadline for CAF members to submit a voluntary release from their service – which would not bear the same consequences as the “unsuitable for further service” release – was the very same day that the vaccination directive was given by the acting Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). 

“Any request for Voluntary Release initiated by non-compliant members prior to 8 OCT 21 (date the CDS Directive was issued) may proceed,” the document reads. “Any requests from non-compliant members after that date will not be accepted, and those members will be subject to the administrative action process outlined in this order.”

This essentially means that unvaccinated CAF members have no way out of their service other than being subject to a disciplinary administrative process. 

According to DND, that process includes being issued a “Recorder Warning” for conduct and a three-month monitoring period. The CAF can also cut this three-month period short after “seven days of non-compliance (i.e. have not booked a vaccination appointment)” after which “it will be considered a repeat of the deficiency.” This means the remaining two months and three weeks would be cancelled. 

“As for those who suggest this is a punitive approach, the Canadian Armed Forces is an organization predicated on teamwork and keeping Canadians safe,” a DND spokesperson told True North. 

“Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have a duty to maintain their operational readiness and preserve their ability to serve Canadians at home and support our Allies and partners abroad.”

According to the DND, 94% of eligible CAF members are fully vaccinated as of Dec. 10. Additionally, a recent amendment to the directive has extended the period for exemption requests from the vaccine policy to December 18, 2021.

Those who are seeking exemptions and accommodations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.