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NHLers weigh in on league’s vaccine policy: ‘I’ve gotta be careful with this one’


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Thatcher Demko took a long pause before answering.

Not because he didn’t know what to say — the Vancouver Canucks goalie just wanted to be sure he chose his words carefully when the topic pivoted.

“I’ve gotta be careful with this one … there’s so much tension about it,” Demko said of the NHL and COVID-19 vaccinations. “I’ll just speak for myself: it’s part of the job. You’ve got to do it if you want to fully participate in the season this year. Getting the vaccine isn’t something that I’m passionate enough (about) to inhibit my ability to play.

“I had no problem getting it.”

The NHL and NHL Players’ Association haven’t mandated vaccines for players with training camps starting this week, but there’s little doubt tough restrictions — including not being able to cross the border from the U.S. into Canada without a two-week quarantine — provided an incentive for many on the fence.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last week he estimates 98 per cent of players will be vaccinated by the start of the season, leaving between 10 and 15 players without the jab among roughly 700 competitors on 32 teams.

“The league’s trying to operate as safe as possible and trying to encourage the safest possible environment,” Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. “They’ve encouraged that and tried to minimize risks to keep everybody safe, and to make sure that everything functions.

“But it’s anyone’s choice to determine what they feel is best for them … I think you can make an argument on both sides. That’s what the pandemic’s really been all about. It’s been a very difficult situation all the way through, and even up until now.”

Clubs will have the right to suspend unvaccinated players without pay this season if they’re unable to participate in hockey activities as part of coronavirus protocols, including games in Canada.

Sporting a mask, Leafs winger William Nylander opened his press conference at the start of Toronto’s camp by informing reporters he’s not yet fully vaccinated.

“Had couple medical things to take care of,” he said. “I’ll be fully vaccinated by the beginning of the season.”

Vaccinated players that test positive in 2021-22 for COVID-19 will be treated as having hockey injuries and still get paid, while their unvaccinated counterparts are set to have their movements restricted on the road.

Regular testing for the coronavirus will continue for vaccinated players.

Canucks forward Jason Dickinson said the decision to role up his sleeve was an easy one.

“The vaccine works — it works,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that want to argue it. And I guess that’s their right, but there’s a lot of people that are losing their rights right now by having to wait (the unvaccinated) out.

“It’s slowing down everybody else’s life.”

But Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, whose team is fully vaccinated, said he felt pressured into getting the shot.

“I’m not anti-vaxx by any means, but I’d like to have that decision for myself,” he said. “I had just gotten COVID and gotten over it, and then I had to get the (vaccine), which made me feel like I had COVID all over again. If I could have had at least some time to choose, maybe I would have got it (when) they recommend — three months later.

“I would have liked (the NHLPA) to have helped us a little more … I just feel it could have been worked out a little bit better.”

Unlike last season’s playoffs when the Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning were permitted to cross the border to play the Montreal Canadiens, there’s no quarantine exemption from the Canadian government for the 2021-22 campaign.

NHL coaches and staff are required by the league to be vaccinated, which cost Columbus assistant Sylvain Lefebvre his job after he declined to adhere to the policy.

“You’re teetering the line between your own personal choice and what we want to do, and then how it affects others,” Edmonton Oilers winger Zach Hyman said when asked about the NHL’s policy for players. “If someone doesn’t feel comfortable getting vaccinated, then that’s his right and I guess he’ll have to abide by the rules of the league.”

As camps opened this week, news started to filter out regarding players that are yet to be vaccinated. Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi has declined to get his shots, meaning he will miss all nine of Detroit’s games in Canada this season — and lose out on a considerable chunk of his US$4.25-million salary.

“Just personal choice, freedom of choice,” Bertuzzi said. “It was a life decision.”

Oilers winger Josh Archibald is also unvaccinated, which GM Ken Holland said could see him sit out up to 30 games in the U.S. because of the quarantine required upon returning to Canada.

“To get vaccinated has been a personal decision,” said Holland, who added veteran defenceman and vaccine holdout Duncan Keith got jabbed and will join his new team soon. “It’s been an easy decision for some, and it’s been a difficult decision for some.”

The Canucks suffered through a devastating COVID-19 outbreak last season, and will be fully vaccinated in 2021-22.

“A lot of these guys have young kids and they all ended up getting sick,” Vancouver GM Jim Benning said. “As a group, they knew the importance of getting vaccinated to give ourselves the best chance to get back to normal. So there wasn’t too many guys that didn’t want to get vaccinated.”

Canucks forward J.T. Miller said the protocols are out of his hands.

“I just try to worry about what I can control,” he said. “They’re set in place for a reason and I’m just here to do my part. I got vaccinated, I did what I had to do to come here and do my job.

“You’ve got to do what the rules are.”

Dickinson said a vaccinated league is the quickest way back to some semblance of normal.

“We want to play games,” he said. “We want fans in the building.”

“We want to get back to life.”

-With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2021.


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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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RCMP members taking a stand against “mandatory” vaccination

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RCMP members facing the loss of their jobs over mandatory vaccination are reaching out to their Commissioner and asking for the support of Canadians.

In an extensive and detailed Open Letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Luck, the officers say they cannot “willingly participate in enforcing mandates” they don’t believe in.

RCMP members opposed to vaccine mandates have formed an organization called Mounties For Freedom.  Members of the RCMP are among the thousands of federal public servants who feel threatened by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that “There will be consequences” for those who choose not to be vaccinated.

The open letter (below) to Commissioner Lucki sets out a series of arguments culminating in a joint statement against “the discrimination faced by those who have exercised their right to bodily autonomy.”

Open Letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki

RCMP National Headquarters
73 Leikin Dr
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R2

October 21, 2021

Dear Commissioner Brenda Lucki:

We respectfully submit this open letter to express our most sincere concerns and resolute stand against the forced coercive medical intervention of Canadians, and against the undue discrimination experienced by those exercising their lawful right to bodily autonomy. We are not against vaccinations, but as law enforcement officers, we cannot in good conscience willingly participate in enforcing mandates that we believe go against the best interests of the people we protect.


As Canadians, our constitutionally-protected freedoms precede the government, and may only be temporarily limited if the majority of evidence justifies such infringements as reasonable, provable, and guided by law. If presented with all available evidence in a court, we firmly believe the government implemented mandates would not hold up under scrutiny.
As experienced investigators, we look past what information is provided and focus on how the information is presented. A proper investigation should be conducted as objectively as possible, and follow the principle that it is better to have questions that cannot be answered than to have answers that cannot be questioned. A complete investigation must include full disclosure of all the facts of the case, even contradictory evidence. Why, then, is there little to no tolerance for free and open debate on this matter? Many credible medical and scientific experts are being censored. Accordingly, we rightly have concerns about “the science” we are being coerced to “follow”.
As representatives of our communities within the RCMP and representatives of the RCMP in our communities, we have never witnessed such division in our country. This sense of “Us versus Them” will be further fueled by having a police force consisting only of “vaccinated” people, while serving communities consisting of “unvaccinated” people, which goes against the community policing model the RCMP has strived to achieve.
As law enforcement officers, we already face higher levels of stress and mental illnesses due to the nature of our work. These have been compounded – considerably – by mandates that we believe are deeply unethical, threatening our livelihood, and dividing society.
As federal employees, what is being done to mitigate this stress? Moreover, what assurances are we given that the injections will not cause short or long-term side effects? What steps will be taken to ensure members are compensated for adverse side effects?
Police officers are expected to preserve the peace, uphold the law, and defend the public interest. We strongly believe that forced and coerced medical treatments undermine all three and, thus, contradict our duties and responsibilities to Canadians. We remain loyal to the Charter and Bill of Rights and ask you to send investigators to collect statements from medical professionals (and other reliable witnesses) who allege they have been silenced – putting lives at risk. Allow us to make this information publicly available to all so the public can scrutinize it and achieve informed consent.


This letter was created from the collective thoughts, beliefs, and opinions of actively serving police officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) from across the country. We have a wealth of experience which includes, but is not limited to, General Duty, Federal Serious and Organized Crime, School Liaison, Prime Minister Protection Detail, Emergency Response Team, Media Relations, and Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit. We come from various ranks, levels of experience, communities, cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, and vaccination statuses. Together we are the Mounties for Freedom. We are individual police officers who united in the belief that citizens, including federal employees, should not be forced and coerced into taking a medical intervention.


In August 2021, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced, “Federal public servants need to be fully vaccinated,” and that for those without a medical exemption who choose not to be vaccinated: “There will be consequences”1.
Since that statement, many federal employees have been told they will be sent home without pay for refusing to receive a contested medical treatment. We have united in the belief that people should not be forced or coerced into receiving the current COVID-19 treatments – it should be voluntary. We stand united against the forced and coerced medical intervention of Canadians and against the discrimination faced by those who have exercised their right to bodily autonomy. We believe in democracy, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Bill of Rights.
This is not about whether people should be vaccinated – that is a personal choice.
In an extensive podcast interview with David Whitehead, Mounties For Freedom spokesman Corporal Daniel Bulford points out several issues with vaccine mandates. Corporal Bulford (who ironically is a member of the Ottawa based detail in charge of protecting the Prime Minister) is particularly upset with  Canada’s health authorities for not allowing treatments such as Ivermectin which have been successfully and extensively tested in other parts of the world.
Over 40,000 supporters have signed up in support of the Open Letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.
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Internal government analysis shows depth of reliance on now-defunct recovery benefit

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OTTAWA — The majority of Canadian residents who received the federal Canada Recovery Benefit were continuous or repeat recipients of the now-ended aid program, An internal government analysis reveals.

The assessment from Employment and Social Development Canada found that by early June, 1.5 million, or about 75 per cent of the 1.8 million unique recipients of the benefit, were continuous or repeat beneficiaries.

Among them were some 627,000 recipients who applied and received the benefit for months at a time, never once taking a break.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the briefing note to the top official at the department under the access to information law.

Experts who reviewed the document suggested the analysis hints at the level of need for the income-support program, which came to an end over the weekend.

As of Oct. 10, the CRB had paid out just over $27 billion to nearly 2.2 million applicants since launching in late September 2020, but had seen a steady decline in demand from its peak of 1.22 million recipients in January.

By the end, there were about 800,000 people reliant on the payments who only had 48 hours to adjust their finances when the Liberals announced a change in the benefit package on Thursday.

“Workers need the Canada Recovery Benefits to pay rent and not lose their housing. Many workers can only find part-time work & are not getting enough shifts to make ends meet. The pandemic is not over,” Deena Ladd, executive director of the Toronto-based Workers Action Centre, wrote in a tweet Sunday asking the Liberals to reinstate the benefit.

The government said the CRB was no longer needed because the Canadian economy was faring better than a few months ago, including a labour market that had recovered the three million jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic last year.

Similarly, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said, the wage subsidy was no longer required as she proposed a broadened credit for companies that hire new workers.

Jennifer Robson, an associate professor of political management from Carleton University in Ottawa, said the Liberals’ announcement didn’t signal anything about the need for retraining or job-search services to help unemployed workers.

“The hiring credit might, in theory, help some kinds of employers hire more staff, but there’s nothing here that would suggest this will do much in the short-term to help CRB users,” Robson wrote in an email.

In their analysis, federal officials noted the number of first-time applicants for the CRB decreased starting in mid-January. The document also said more than 600,000 recipients who were paid in the first four months of the CRB’s life were off the benefit by the start of June.

A similar trend was noticed among employment insurance claimants, “which indicates that Canadians have been steadily returning to work,” officials wrote, adding that EI claims for sales and service jobs “have yet to recover as quickly as other occupations.”

CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld wrote in an end-of-week analysis that there is now a risk that workers supported by the wage subsidy or CRB “will be added to the ranks of the job hunters” and affect progress on bringing down the national unemployment rate.

In place of the CRB, the Liberals introduced a rejigged $300-a-week benefit that would only go to workers who lose their jobs or income because of a government-ordered lockdown.

In a television interview aired Sunday, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough told CTV’s Question Period that the benefit would only go to those affected by a full lockdown and not tightened restrictions that limited capacity at restaurants, for instance.

“I’m not sure if there are any lockdowns presently in motion, in which case that is an effective shutdown to the CRB with no additional benefits,” said David Macdonald, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2021.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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