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Toronto—For the past two years, paramedics in this province have been forced to submit to a discriminatory, mandatory flu vaccination on the threat of losing their jobs. Today, the Minister of Health announced that the legislation mandating the vaccination will be changed and the mandatory provision of the controversial vaccine for paramedics repealed.

“This decision by the minister is long overdue, but nonetheless it is welcome by paramedics who have always maintained that flu inoculation should be voluntary and not mandated through legislation,” said Sid Ryan, the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), who joined the health minister at a media conference to announce that the flu shot for paramedics is no longer mandatory.

CUPE represents the majority of Ontario’s paramedics. Throughout last winter, as nearly 50 non-compliant paramedics were being suspended, paramedics province-wide called on the government to repeal the legislation and restore their right to choice for influenza vaccination.

Paramedics maintain that flu vaccination is a personal choice and a fundamental human right. CUPE Local 416 with nearly 800 members who work as paramedics launched a challenge under the Charter of Rights arguing that a mandatory flu vaccination constitutes a violation of an individual’s right to security of the person.

At a February meeting of the CUPE Ambulance Workers Committee - made up of the leadership of the sector - paramedics passed a resolution that outlined actions including, but not limited to, province-wide non-compliance with the legislation by paramedics this fall unless the mandatory provision was repealed.

“Paramedics who provide our citizens with quality emergency services have won a triumph for all workers, whose right to decide freely what is injected into their bodies is paramount,” said Ryan, who congratulated all the paramedics who incurred suspensions last year, “for standing firm and upholding what is a fundamental human right.”

Of those suspended paramedics only Bill Kotsopoulos, a North Bay Hospital employee, has not been re-instated to his original position.

“It is now incumbent on the health minister to call on the North Bay Hospital to give Bill his job back. This is the fair and just thing to do,” said Ryan.


For more information please contact:
Sid Ryan, President CUPE Ontario
(416) 209-0066
Michael Dick, Chair, CUPE Ontario Ambulance Committee
(905) 431-3990
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications
(416) 578-8774