Our Mission Statement
FedsForFreedom advocates for an employee’s right to informed consent, bodily autonomy, and medical privacy within the Canadian Federal Public Service.
FedsForFreedom’s Origin Story
In August 2021, our founder, Stacey Payne watched as our Prime Minister announced that if he won the early election he would launch a mandatory vaccination policy for all Federal Public Servants. Troubled by this, she visited the Department of National Defence’s website to investigate her employer’s position on this announcement. The site stated “…DND management cannot require a public servant to get a vaccine, nor is mandatory vaccination supported under Canadian law”. This was the first of many inconsistencies she would see throughout the implementation of the federal Covid-19 policy. She reached out to co-workers looking for support and quickly realized many Federal Public Servants had questions and concerns that were going unanswered.
On August 15 2021, FedsForFreedom was born out of necessity. Stacey, who is a graphic designer by trade, decided she would launch a website & Facebook group to see if there were any other Canadian Federal Public Servants who shared her concerns. As it turns out, there were thousands of us and within a few short months our online community grew to 5000 members. We supported each other offering support, allyship, compassion and resources for many it was a godsend.
Federal Public Servants can be found in every Province and Territory across our beautiful and vast country. There are 25 unions with 88 different collective bargaining agreements throughout 100 various core departments & crown corporations. As a result of these variations, it is very difficult to share information and provide support to members in regards to bodily autonomy, informed consent, labour and privacy rights.
Within the first couple of months the heartbreaking stories that were coming forward were all the motivation Stacey needed to keep pushing forward. A few of these stories are as follows;
- Pregnant women, denied an accommodation and forcibly placed on leave without pay when they would not divulge their medical information;
- People with serious underlying health conditions and medical exemption letters from their doctors denied an accommodation;
- Married public servants both putting forth the same religious accommodation request, one approved and one denied; and
- Many members denied unemployment insurance despite their employer’s assurance that their LWOP was not a disciplinary action.
On October 6, 2021, true to the Prime Minister’s campaign promises, the Treasury Board Secretariat issued a Mandatory Vaccination Policy applicable to employees of the Core Public Administration, including RCMP members. Federal agencies falling outside the Core Public Administration also issued the same policy with varying timelines.
In summary, the Policy required employees to:
- Provide their private medical information by attesting to whether or not they had been or would be “fully vaccinated”;
- Receive both doses of an Emergency Use Authorized vaccine that requires 2 doses to complete the vaccination series; or,
- Receive 1 dose of a Health Canada Emergency Use Authorized vaccine that only requires 1 dose to complete the vaccination series.
Unionized employees surrender to the union the right to negotiate and contend on all work-related matters with the employer; this legal obligation is referred to as the union’s duty of fair representation of the members’ interests. Unions representing Federal Government employees abandoned their dues-paying members by having publicly communicated their full support of the Policy. The unions stated they would not bring any grievances against the Policy itself, and only represent employees whose exemptions and accommodation requests had been denied.
The union’s role is to ensure that the employer is acting in accordance with the law vis-à-vis its employees. If there is a debate on whether the employer is acting legally, the unions should be representing employees who are grieving the employer’s actions.
In an attempt to engage our unions in a meaningful way, members of FedsForFreedom reached out to their local, regional and national union executives. Our pleas either went unanswered, or we received canned responses that failed to address our questions and concerns and did not facilitate reciprocal communication. In a final attempt to engage with our unions, FedsForFreedom organized peaceful sit-ins at the union headquarters in Ottawa. One of our largest unions made slanderous, frivolous and vexatious assertions about our group, calling their very own members “racist, sexist, Anti-Semitic and homophobic”. These allegations are patently false.
Procedure dictates that unionized employees cannot commence legal action against the employer, they must first exhaust their internal administrative processes (meaning filing grievances). Our unions have been entirely unsupportive. Employees did have the option to submit their own grievances without the support of the union; however, individual grievances are subject to a three level process prior to adjudication. At all three levels, a representative of the employer (supervisor, director, Deputy Minister) is the decision maker. Thus, the employer is “opposing party” and “decision-maker” in all three levels of the grievance process resulting in bias and a blatant conflict of interest.
Employees who did not agree to the terms of the Policy were placed on Leave Without Pay (LWOP); for many, this punitive action commenced on November 15, 2021. All Collective Agreements are absent of any provision that affords management the authority to discipline employees by placing them on administrative leave without pay. In fact, according to our Collective Agreements Leave Without Pay must be employee initiated. It is our position that these LWOP’s are legally indistinguishable from constructive dismissal and have wreaked havoc on the mental, emotional and financial well-being of Public Servants. Furthermore, the Government of Canada has taken additional punitive steps to ensure affected employees were ineligible for Employment Insurance. This resulted in total income loss for many households.
- Hosted nightly peer support meetings;
- Held monthly meetings & workshops for our community;
- Created and maintained our website and multiple social media channels;
- Developed dozens of resources supporting members personal actions;
- Authored an Open letter to the Prime Minister and collected 1600 signatures;
- Composed an Open letter to Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and collected 1200 signatures;
- Staged a peaceful sit-in at PSAC Union HQ in Ottawa;
- Launched successful fundraising campaigns that raised over $12,000 to cover our carrying costs and to retain legal counsel to represent us at the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Employment Board;
- Filed Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Employment Board complaints against PIPSC and PSAC on their failure of their Duty of Fair Representation (these cases are still ongoing);
- Tabled a petition in the House of Commons, which received over 17,000 signatures to drop the Federal Vaccine Mandate;
- Served a cease and desist to the Core Federal Departments, putting them on notice of a pending statement of claim;
- Registered as a Not for Profit; and
- Established an Executive Committee who are actively establishing a governance structure and a process for electing our first Board of Directors.