The House of Commons unanimously agreed to suspend COVID-19 vaccination mandates for MPs, staff and visitors starting Monday.
The leader of the government’s House of Representatives, Mark Holland, launched Thursday afternoon a motion to lift the mandate, which has been in place since last fall, after heads of houses from all parties met earlier this week.
Conservative House Leader John Brassard said it was time to change the rules and that “Parliament has really been the exception” when it comes to public health rules.
The federal government also announced this week that it is suspending vaccination mandates for domestic and outbound international flights and rail as of Monday.
The Domestic Economic Council, the cross-party committee that decides on parliamentary affairs, voted to introduce a vaccination mandate for everyone who comes to the rest of the parliamentary precinct, effective November last year. He also decided to suspend this mandate from Monday.
The wearing of masks remains mandatory in the House of Commons until June 23, and until then, the rule will remain in place for the rest of the precinct, House Chairman and Speaker Anthony Roth said in a statement.
Brassard said he expected every MP to take their seat in the House of Commons on Monday. This did not happen to every Conservative MP at this meeting, as some of them refused to disclose their vaccination status.
They include Saskatchewan MP Kathai Vaganthal, who recently said she needed to leave the precinct and has been unable to access her office since the rules went into effect.
Opposition leader calls for abolishing mandatory masks
Brassard wants another change in the rules: “This theatrical story of wearing masks must end.”
“If someone wants to wear a mask on Parliament Hill and feels comfortable that they need to wear a mask, then they should wear a mask,” he said. “If someone doesn’t want to wear a mask, then they shouldn’t wear a mask.”
June 23 is the last scheduled day of the meeting before the parliament’s summer recess.
Negotiations are ongoing between the parties on what will happen when the autumn meeting begins in September. It is not yet clear whether vaccines will be required, whether masks will be required, or if hybrid sessions will continue to be held in the House of Representatives.
Conservatives support the possibility of a virtual presence under certain circumstances, such as if an MP has to go to a funeral or solve a medical problem. But beyond that, Brassard said he thought MPs should show up in person.
“We expect that everyone who may be here in Ottawa will be here in Ottawa when Parliament resumes on September 19 and that we will return to the pre-pandemic normal in the House of Commons,” he said.