Workers of longterm care facilities in B.C. who refuse to get vaccinated are being terminated "with cause" and without severance packages later this month if they do not change their minds.
Preet Kaur, a LPN at Chartwell Retirement Residences in Kelowna, was among the nearly 2,000 employees of B.C. care homes who were placed on unpaid leave on Tuesday when the province's mandate went into effect.
Kaur, who worked at the care home for three years, says she's been told she will not be receiving severance and is being terminated "with cause" for refusing the vaccine.
"People don't get terminated 'with cause' unless they kill someone or if they cause major damage. That is what they think not getting vaccinated is," Kaur told Castanet.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health confirmed that employers are meeting with unvaccinated employees between now and Oct. 25 "to determine whether they intend to become vaccinated, provide the employee with resources on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and provide them with information on accessing vaccines on an urgent basis."
"For individuals who have made the decision not to be vaccinated, they are no longer able to meet the terms and conditions of their employment and therefore will be issued a termination letter by their employer," the Ministry of Health continued.
The government says they have set a deadline for termination for the unvaccinated so that care homes can rehire staff who are vaccinated and provide certainty for future staffing.
"Employers are hopeful that all staff that are presently unvaccinated will make the decision to get vaccinated ASAP," the ministry said.
Kaur says she has chosen not to get vaccinated due to her religious beliefs. She is Orthodox Sikh and was raised in India.
"I have been practising this religion since birth. I believe everything you put into your body should be organic and you should not put in anything with animal byproducts. I don't eat any meat. I don't take Tylenol or Advil. I don't take anything that has been tested on animals," she said "With the vaccine, they are saying it has no component of animals, but so far all the other vaccines previous to COVID, they all had animal byproducts in them."
There have been no statements against the vaccine from prominent Sikh faith leaders, and many Sikh organizations have been encouraging vaccination. The B.C. government is not providing religious exemptions to the mandate.
Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said 96 per cent of long-term care staff and 97 per cent of assisted-living staff in the province have received at least one dose of vaccine.
"The rule is very straightforward, it's a provincial health order, it applies to everyone," Dix said. "So that means if you're not vaccinated, you're not working right now in long-term care and assisted living."
Kaur also claims she is allergic to EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), although that is only used in the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Kaur admits she had to take the polio and tetanus vaccine in order to become a nurse when she came to Canada, something she regrets.
"I think about that day, since getting those (vaccines). I wish I actually have never gotten them and had never begun nursing in Canada. I wish I didn't put myself in this situation," she said. "They told me you can't even step foot in Canada without them. Since then I have become so much more natural and I am even more strict on the holistic approach. I thought I had no choice, but looking back I wish I said no."
Kaur says her husband is also in the same position and has been placed on unpaid leave. She would not disclose where he works.
"I have no idea what to do. I was thinking I would get severance and be able to go somewhere where I can practice. I am a good nurse and I don't want to give up my license. Now I can't," she said.
"I am very careful and I don't go anywhere. I think people deserve a choice. In my opinion, the people that are very careful, and considerate and take all the precautions."
Kaur has started a GoFundMe to help her raise money so that she can hire a lawyer.
"The BC provincial health should take into account people like me. It is a human rights violation. People can't even practice their own religion? Like, why did I move to Canada? I don't even have the freedom. I don't want to change my whole belief system. I am hoping I can get the severance."