What provinces have to say about vaccine passports
OTTAWA -- With the Delta variant fuelling a fourth wave of COVID-19 in Canada, provincial and territorial governments remain divided on whether to issue some form of vaccine passport.
The federal government has said that vaccine passports for international travel will be available for fully vaccinated Canadians sometime in early fall. The feds also plan on requiring proof of vaccination for commercial air, interprovincial train and cruise ship passengers by October.
Several provinces have already issued some form of vaccine passport or certificate, while others have ruled out the idea entirely or are waiting for the federal vaccine passport.
Here is where some of them stand:
British Columbia announced on Aug. 23 that the province will require residents to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms, casinos, sporting events, theatres, conferences and weddings.
Starting Sept. 13, B.C. residents will be able to access a digital vaccine card or request a paper one from the province.
Proof of at least one dose will suffice until Oct. 24. After which, the province will require proof of being fully vaccinated.
"We're making it as simple as we possibly can to have a confidential way of determining people's immunization status," B.C. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Bonnie Henry said during the announcement.
After months of saying a vaccine passport would not be in the cards, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced on Sept. 15 that the province would bring in a proof of vaccination program due to rising infections in the province.
Alberta’s fourth wave has been its most severe. On Sept. 16, the province announced that 222 COVID-19 patients were currently in the intensive care unit, a record high since the start of the pandemic.
Albertans will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from the previous 72 hours to access events and businesses, including indoor dining and indoor fitness classes, to name a few.
Back in July, Kenney was adamant that proof of vaccination would not be coming to Alberta.
"We've been very clear from the beginning that we will not facilitate or accept vaccine passports," Kenney said during a Calgary Stampede photo-op on July 12.
"I believe they would in principle contravene the Health Information Act and also possibly the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act."
Similarly to Alberta, Saskatchewan has announced a proof of vaccination program after months of indicating that a program would not be brought to the province.
On Sept. 16, Saskatchewan announced that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test would be required for restaurants, casinos, movie theatres and indoor facilities hosting ticketed sporting events.
"The choice to not get vaccinated is creating consequences for others and I would say very soon, it is going to create consequences for those who have made the decision to remain unvaccinated," Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said.
Proof of vaccination will not be required in amateur sporting events, grocery stores, places of worship, private gatherings and businesses closed to the public, to name a few.
In June, Manitoba launched its proof-of-vaccination card, issued to any fully immunized Manitoban with a provincial health card.
The certificates allow residents to skip the mandatory quarantine when returning to the province from international travel and helps with those wishing to visit a loved one in long-term care.
The passports are also used for access to sporting events, restaurants, bars, and any business that wants to see vaccine proof before entry.
Ontario is set to mandate proof of vaccination to enter certain non-essential businesses, such as gyms, restaurants, theatres, concert venues, starting Sept. 22.
"My friends, it's no secret. This is something that I did not want to do. This is a serious step that we're not taking lightly," Ontario Premier Doug Ford said during a news conference on Sept. 1.
Ford had previously ruled out the possibility of a vaccine passport for the province, telling reporters in July, "We're not going to have a split society."
In order to enter an applicable business, Ontarians will be required to present photo ID alongside their vaccination receipt, which is available in print or as a PDF document.
By Oct. 22, the province plans to have a digital vaccine certificate available in a QR code format.
As of Sept. 1, individuals who are 13 years of age or older will have to present a QR code through the Quebec government's VaxiCode app in order to visit a restaurant, bar, gym and other establishments listed on the Quebec government's website.
The code contains the person's name, date of birth and vaccine information. Quebecers will also be required to present photo ID alongside the code.
Quebecers without smartphones can also print out the QR code through the province's website or have it mailed. Visitors to Quebec can show proof of vaccination from their own jurisdiction alongside a piece of photo ID.
Earlier in August, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the passport will be used "in order [for] people who made the effort to be vaccinated, that they are able to come back to a normal life."
New Brunswick announced on Sept. 15 that it would bring in a proof of vaccination program later in the month to help slow down a rise in COVID-19 infections.
Under the new program, residents will be required to show proof of vaccination to visit indoor festivals, sporting events, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and gyms.
"It is imperative that we do what is needed to protect our residents while living with the reality that the virus is still with us,” said New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs.
“These changes are necessary to ensure that our province is able to remain in Green and avoid lockdowns, which we know are detrimental to businesses and people’s mental health. We also need to avoid overwhelming our health-care system."
Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s top doctor, said Thursday that Nova Scotia is in no rush to follow Quebec’s lead and has not made a decision on vaccine passports.
"I remain concerned that if not done very thoughtfully, something like a vaccine passport will further marginalize populations that are already marginalized in our communities."
Strang said he thinks there are a number of issues concerning the idea and that any proof of vaccination would have to be robust to avoid fraudulent claims.
The Nova Scotia Liberals, in the midst of a provincial election, promised to implement a vaccine passport if elected on Aug. 17. However, Tim Houston's Progressive Conservatives won a majority. Houston has said that he would rely on advice from experts like Strang before deciding on vaccine passports.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey announced on Sept. 7 that the province would be implementing a QR code-based vaccination passport.
"That is an important step that we will take to ensure that people who do have the vaccine and have done their part will not be penalized should certain outbreaks occur across our province," Furey told reporters.
Furey said the province will use the Quebec model for the vaccine passport, saying it had the "best security available." Like in Quebec, the QR codes will be available to print for those who do not have access to smartphones.
The vaccine passports are expected to be in place "within the upcoming weeks to months," Furey said.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Prince Edward Island has instituted a “PEI Pass,” which is similar to vaccine passport, except is only for people travelling to the province and people from P.E.I. who are returning from another province.
Travellers are eligible for a PEI Pass if they have one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or are fully vaccinated, depending on where they’re from.
People in possession of a PEI Pass will be exempt from isolating when entering the province.
The territory of Yukon announced on Sept. 7 that it would be launching an online COVID-19 vaccine credential system.
Yukon residents will be able to access a digital copy of their vaccination information, which they can also print.
The system is designed to make it easier for Yukon residents who are asked to show proof of vaccination while travelling outside of the territory.
However, Yukon Premier Sandy Silver told reporters that a territory-wide vaccine mandate isn't necessary, citing the high vaccination rates. As of Sept. 7, nearly 85 per cent of eligible Yukon residents are fully vaccinated.
In an FAQ section on the province’s website, the Northwest Territories “will comply with federal requirements once decided, but it is not up to us to decide what is needed or accepted across the country.”
It also noted that anyone requiring proof of vaccination for employment can request their vaccination record.
The Government of Nunavut has said that any vaccine passports would happen at the federal level.