There has been a lot of debate around the idea of a national vaccine passport system in Canada to better facilitate travel and to help clarify access to businesses and services.
The questions are only growing as the country continues to reopen after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many say a standardized federal passport is necessary.
At this point, the word from the federal government is that provinces will be policing themselves – at least when it comes to interprovincial travel.
“Different provinces will be doing different things,” says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Where the federal government has a role to play and where we are looking is in terms of vaccine certification for international travel.”
Trudeau says the federal government’s responsibility lies in standardizing proof-of-vaccination for international travel.
Details on this could be coming soon with restrictions on non-essential travel at the Canada-U.S. border set to expire on July 21.
While cases in Canada continue to drop, the U.S. has seen a recent uptick in new infections in areas with low vaccination rates. The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. has doubled in the last eight days.
More than 51 per cent of the eligible population in Canada is now fully vaccinated. Almost 80 per cent have received at least one dose.
As of last week, fully vaccinated international travellers returning to Canada can forego the 14-day quarantine, including the government-authorized hotel stay.
Canadians are currently still being urged to avoid any non-essential travel.
Federal vs. provincial responsibility
While many British Columbians have shown support for the idea, B.C.’s top doctor has said she has no plans to bring in vaccine passports on a provincial level, citing inequities that can be caused with such systems.
Quebec has already taken steps to implement a vaccine passport system in the fall, but in Ontario, the premier’s office says Doug Ford has no plans to make vaccines mandatory.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones doubled down on Wednesday, saying the Ford government will not be issuing any directive on proof of vaccination and that it is up to the federal government to come up with a passport.
“We do not envision we would need an Ontario-based vaccine passport,” said Jones. “That is the responsibility of the federal government as people move across borders.”
“If individual businesses, companies, or organizations are requesting proof of vaccine then what is currently available is the piece of paper that you received post-vaccination.”
Some have expressed concern that the paper vaccine certificates could be easily doctored and would not ensure the same level of security as a government-imposed system.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade said this week that a vaccine passport makes sense for Ontario. It has called on the Ontario government to introduce a vaccine passport system for non-essential business activity.
The Quebec government says it will impose a vaccine-passport system in September in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks occur. The system will require people to prove they are vaccinated in order to enter places such as gyms and bars.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said the proposed health order will allow the government to avoid further lockdowns if cases begin to rise. He said it would also allow businesses to operate despite having COVID-19 outbreaks.
Manitoba has also been issuing proof-of-immunization cards to residents who are two weeks past their second dose.
In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney has said the province will not be issuing vaccine passports.
“I believe they would in principle contravene the Health Information Act and also possibly the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,” said Kenney.
With files from the Canadian Press