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.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in July that the province won’t issue vaccine passports.
“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.”
Saskatchewan is working on a form of vaccine passport designed to assist in international travel, but Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has stated that such documentation will not be required to go to work or attend events.
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark on Aug. 25 said on social media that he’s urging the province to mandate vaccine passports for certain activities in order to curb rising COVID-19 cases in the province.
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.
Back in July, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ruled out the possibility of a vaccine passport for the province.
“The answer is no, we’re not going to do it,” he told reporters on July 15. “We’re not going have a split society.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory has called for a provincial vaccine passport system, as has the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
Christine Elliott, the province’s health minister, told reporters on Aug. 10 that it should be “up to the businesses” to determine whether they want to make vaccines mandatory for their patrons.
Elliott also said Ontario has no plans to develop a QR code system to store proofs of vaccination and that the province’s PDF vaccination receipts offer “sufficient proof.”
Starting 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.
iPhone users can already download the VaxiCode app as of Aug. 25 while Android users will have to wait until the app lands in the Google Play Store later this week.
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 Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said in July that the province has no plans to bring in a vaccine passport.
“I think that we can do without a vaccine passport on a domestic level,” she said.
New Brunswickers travelling to a destination – in Canada or elsewhere – can use the paper proof of vaccination they received when they were inoculated or have access to an online record.
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
On May 26, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and Office of the Citizens’ Representative responded to national statements on vaccination passports.
They could offer a substantial public benefit, but should only be implemented if their benefits are balanced against privacy rights, Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael Harvey said.
“They are asking people to reveal their health information in exchange for access to a premises or even the province or country,” Harvey said. “That is a lot to ask.”
Bradley Moss, who represents the provincial ombudsman office, which is known as the Office of the Citizens’ Respresentative, said his organization recognizes the need for a vaccine passport, but that it could lead to confusion and complaints.
“If the government decides to develop or use vaccine passports in order for people to access provincial public services, it is important that they ensure that administrative fairness is respected,” Moss said. “Vaccine passports should not create oppressive or unreasonable barriers to obtaining public services based on an individual’s vaccination status.”
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 Yukon’s Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay released a statement in May that vaccine passports must safeguard privacy and should only be used for public health measures.
“They should also incorporate privacy best practices in order to achieve the highest level of privacy protection commensurate with the sensitivity of the personal health information,” the statement said.
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.