The Ontario government is moving ahead with a proof of vaccination plan for some non-essential businesses.
The government is calling the vaccine pass an “enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificate” system.
Fully vaccinated Ontarians will need their current receipt with a valid photo ID to enter businesses that require proof of vaccination.
The vaccine certificate will come into effect on Sept. 22 and then on Oct. 22, Ontarians will have access to a QR code as proof of vaccination.
“We need to protect our hospitals, we need to avoid lockdowns at all costs,” Premier Doug Ford told reporters Wednesday.
“These [vaccine certificates] are a temporary tool that we won’t use a day longer than we have to,” said Ford.
Unvaccinated Ontarians will now be excluded from non-essential settings the province deemed highest-risk, such as bars, restaurants, gyms, and theatres.
The mandatory requirements do not apply to patios, with the exception of outdoor nightclub spaces.
These requirements will also not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores or medical supplies.
Proof of vaccination will be required at the following places:
- Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout);
- Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
- Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
- Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport;
- Sporting events;
- Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments;
- Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas;
- Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs;
- Racing venues (e.g., horse racing).
Medical exemptions will be permitted with a doctor’s note until the province comes up with a recognized medical exemption within the digital vaccine certificate that rolls out in October.
Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempt.
Questions around enforcement are unclear at this point.
The province is relying on by-law enforcement officers and the public.
“Enforcement led by bylaw officers will be reasonable and will rely on individuals and businesses to do the right thing,” said Ford.
There is a number of Canadian businesses and citizens fighting against mandatory health passes. Facebook pages like Ontario Businesses Against Health Pass (70k members) and BC Businesses against Health Pass (107k members) have been growing over the past few months.
Meanwhile, it was just a few weeks ago that the premier said no documentation of vaccination would be required in Ontario.
“No, we aren’t doing it … simple as that,” Ford told reporters. “We aren’t going to have a split society.”
Ford said the province would not force mandatory vaccinations on anyone.
“No, I think it’s our constitutional right to take it or not take it. No one should be forced to do anything.”
It should also be noted that Ford’s back-and-forth with the federal government continued Wednesday.
When the premier was asked why the government was slow to roll out a proof of vaccination system, he was quick to call out the Trudeau government for triggering an “unnecessary” election in the midst of a 4th wave instead of implementing a national vaccine passport system.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called out the premier during a campaign stop in Ontario on Friday.
The incumbent leader was at a small restaurant in Mississauga to unveil a billion-dollar provincial vaccine passport plan, if re-elected.
“I certainly hope that here in Ontario, Premier Ford steps up,” Trudeau told reporters.
Trudeau was subsequently called out himself for lecturing the premier while also breaking Covid-19 capacity limits.
While taking questions from reporters, CBC reporter Raffy Boudjikanian asked if Trudeau knew he was breaking Ontario’s indoor gathering restrictions.
“Are you breaking the spirit if not the letter of the law to hold a party event and lecture the premier of Ontario on vaccine passports?” Trudeau was asked.
Trudeau ignored the question.
Similar to Ford, Trudeau had previously warned against the societal divisiveness mandatory vaccine passports could create.
Trudeau said he was opposed to the idea of mandating people to carry digital proof that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19 during a news conference in January.
He said people wouldn’t get vaccinated for many reasons, but not necessarily through a personal or political choice, but rather valid medical reasons.
“The indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to get vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real, divisive impacts,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advised against vaccine passports for international travel in a January statement.
“There are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission and limited availability of vaccines,” read the statement.
Meanwhile, the proof of vaccination policy might result in an uptick in people getting immunized, according to Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner.
“It’s one of the jurisdictions that can substantially increase the number of people coming forward for immunization. We might find that the pace of immunization picks up.”