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Manitoba Human Rights Commission ‘monitoring’ province’s COVID-19 vaccination card, incentives

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission says it's monitoring the provincial government's new COVID-19 immunization cards, and incentive programs launched to encourage vaccination. John Woods / The Canadian Press

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission says it’s monitoring Manitoba’s move to issue cards confirming full immunization against COVID-19 and launch incentive programs to encourage vaccination.

In a statement Thursday, the commission said it was reminding government — as well as employers, service and housing providers — of their “obligation to respect human rights when imposing vaccination requirements / requiring proof of vaccine.”

Read more: COVID-19: Fully vaccinated Manitobans to get secure immunization card

It says requiring individuals to produce proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access employment, public services or housing could result in discrimination based on disability, religious belief, political belief, social disadvantage and age.

“Requiring individuals to be vaccinated and produce proof of vaccine may also negatively impact individuals who cannot equitably access vaccination and other public health resources for reasons related to disadvantage, including houselessness and poverty,” the statement reads in part.

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“The Commission is also mindful that imposing identification requirements can result in adverse effects for communities that are more disproportionately impacted by carding, profiling or other identification requirements, such as Black, Indigenous and people of colour and people with disabilities.”

On Tuesday, the province unveiled a new proof-of-immunization card, available to all Manitobans two weeks after they receive their second dose of vaccine.

The cards will allow carriers to travel within Canada without being subject to the province’s mandatory 14-day self-isolation period upon their return, grant them greater visitation rights at hospitals and personal care homes, and exempt them from having to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a COVID-19 case.

Read more: Manitoba launches nearly $2M lottery to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations

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Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister left open the possibility of using the cards to also determine access to major sporting events, museums and other facilities.

On Wednesday Pallister also announced a lottery for all people who have received two doses as a way to boost vaccination rates.

The commission said mandatory vaccination and vaccination identification requirements must meet certain standards to be permissible under human rights law.

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Manitoba announces $2-million lottery to encourage people to get COVID-19 vaccine – Jun 9, 2021

For instance, the requirement for vaccination must be “adopted in an honest and good faith belief that it is necessary to the fulfillment of a legitimate employment or service-related purpose,” and be designed to minimize burden and “not treat one particular group more harshly than others without justification.”

Alternative approaches to the vaccine requirement must have been investigated and considered as well, the commission said.

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As for vaccination incentives, the commission says disability, social disadvantage, religious belief, age and political belief may need to be considered.

Read more: Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine yet in Manitoba? How to book it and where to go

“Under The Code, organizations cannot deny someone access to a good, benefit or program for reasons related to a Code-protected ground, unless that denial can be reasonably justified,” the commission said in the statement.

“Therefore, governments, employers, service or housing providers must ensure that vaccination incentive programs do not limit the equality rights of Code-protected groups.”

Global News has reached out to the provincial government for comment.

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What the Manitoba vaccination card means for fully vaccinated residents – Jun 8, 2021

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew, meanwhile, has said the government needs to ensure the immunization cards are easily available to marginalized people.

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“I’m thinking about people who may not have ready access to the internet, who may not own a smartphone,” Kinew said Tuesday.

Read more: Manitoba launches COVID-19 reopening plan

The province has said the cards, which will be available in both a physical and digital format, will include the person’s first and last name as well as a QR code, which when scanned, will confirm vaccination status.

The cards will include no personal health information, the province added.

— With files from The Canadian Press

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.

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