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Canadian military cuts dozens of unvaccinated troops, puts hundreds more on notice


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OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces has kicked out dozens of service members who refused to bare their arms and get vaccinated, while release proceedings have started for hundreds of others.

The steps come after chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre ordered all military personnel be fully vaccinated by mid-October to protect the Armed Forces from COVID-19. The deadline was later extended to mid-December.

While most service members complied with the order, with the Defence Department reporting more than 98 per cent of Canadian troops had chosen to get vaccinated, hundreds of others did not. Those soldiers are now being forced to hang up their uniforms.

Fifty-eight full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces had been involuntarily released for refusing to get their shots as of Wednesday, Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in an email.

“Notices of Intent” have been given to 246 others, meaning the formal process has now started for forcing them out as well, though Le Bouthillier said there is still a chance some could change their mind and remain in uniform by getting their vaccines.

Another 66 unvaccinated members of the regular force have voluntarily left the Canadian Armed Forces, he added.

Figures were not immediately available on the number of reservists who have been — or are in danger of being — kicked out.

The unprecedented moves follow months of warnings, counselling sessions and other efforts to convince vaccine-resistant troops to change their minds and get their jabs. Defence officials earlier this month said nearly 1,000 troops had been issued warnings.

Yet the releases are also certain to exacerbate the military’s ongoing shortage of personnel, which has grown worse during the pandemic as recruiting centres and training schools were forced to close or otherwise restrict their activities.

While the military is supposed to have around 100,000 troops at full strength, Defence Department figures show it was short around 10,000 members at the end of November.

Another 10,000 troops were listed as unavailable for duty because they were either untrained, sick or injured.

This comes at a time when the pandemic as well as growing international instability has resulted in the Armed Forces being tasked with an ever-growing list of requests for assistance at home and missions overseas.

Eyre in an interview in November acknowledged the Canadian Armed Forces is “a fragile organization right now because of our numbers being down, because of the (operational) tempo, because of this crisis in (sexual) misconduct.”

While lawyer and retired colonel Michel Drapeau said Armed Forces members who refuse to get vaccinated could be charged, Le Bouthillier could not immediately say whether that has happened.

Either way, Drapeau, who specializes in military law, said there are significant and long term implications on Armed Forces members’ pensions and other financial benefits for leaving the military before they have served for 25 years.

“I totally agree with the decision of the Canadian military to release members who refuse to be vaccinated because they are no longer universally employable and deployable, which is at the very core of the military profession,” he said in an email.

Several Armed Forces members tried to challenge the vaccine requirement in Federal Court last month, where they asked Justice Janet Fuhrer to intervene and stop the military from forcing them to get their shots.

But continuing a string of legal defeats for federal employees fighting vaccine requirements, Fuhrer dismissed their arguments.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 3, 2022.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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Emergency manager to take the stand for third day at ‘Freedom Convoy’ trial

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Kim Ayotte, General Manager of Emergency and Protective Services at the City of Ottawa, arrives at the courthouse in Ottawa where he will appear as a witness at the trial of “Freedom Convoy” organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber, on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang


Ottawa’s emergency services manager is expected to take the stand for a third day in the criminal trial of two “Freedom Convoy” organizers.

Tamara Lich and Chris Barber are co-accused for their role in the protest that blocked city streets around Parliament Hill and nearby residential areas.

Kim Ayotte oversees city bylaw enforcement, paramedic and fire services and the department responsible for special events.

Earlier this week he testified about some of the traffic, noise and other disruptions he witnessed during the protest.

He also talked about working with Barber on a deal between protest organizers and the city to move trucks out of residential neighbourhoods.

That plan ultimately failed after an incident involving police, but Ayotte says he was given only limited information as to what happened.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2023.

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Lawyer raises Jordan concerns in ‘Freedom Convoy’ case as delays drag on

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Tamara Lich arrives at the courthouse for trial in Ottawa on Monday, September 18, 2023. The criminal trial of two “Freedom Convoy” organizers is expected to hear the city’s perspective on the controversial protest as Ottawa’s emergency manager takes the stand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

By Laura Osman in Ottawa

The defence lawyer for one of the “Freedom Convoy” organizers says she will need to consider asking for the case to be dismissed if his trial continues to be plagued with delays.

Chris Barber and Tamara Lich were arrested last year on Feb. 17 in the final days of the convoy protest that clogged the streets of Ottawa in demonstration against COVID-19 public health measures.

They were co-accused of mischief and counselling others to commit mischief and other offences.

The trial began Sept. 5, and was scheduled to run for 16 days — but it’s been slow moving, and court has so far only finished the testimony of three witnesses.

The original timeline now appears to be all but impossible, as the judge looks for more trial dates in October and November.

Barber’s lawyer Diane Magas says if the delays continue, she will need to consider making a Jordan application, which stipulates that any person charged with a crime has the right to be tried within a reasonable time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.

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