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Quebec gym owner facing threats over policy to require clients to show proof of vaccination

Click to play video: 'Knowlton gym owner moves ahead and makes waves with COVID-19 vaccination requirement' Knowlton gym owner moves ahead and makes waves with COVID-19 vaccination requirement
WATCH: Quebec health minister Christian Dubé said the number of COVID-19 vaccine bookings doubled on Thursday, one day after the premier confirmed that a vaccine passport plan will be announced in the coming days. Meanwhile, one business owner in Quebec's Eastern Townships has gone ahead of the government, and is already requiring his clients to show proof of vaccination. Global’s Olivia O'Malley reports. – Aug 6, 2021

Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced Thursday that a vaccine passport plan is in the works for the province, where non-essential services are expected to only be available for vaccinated people. Meanwhile, Athletica Lac Brome owner Alan Gauthier is already requiring his clients to show proof of vaccination at his gym located in Knowlton.

“It’s to protect the clientele here,” he said of the decision, keeping in mind the town’s mixed population and some of his clients who are health compromised.

After Gauthier started to enforce the policy Tuesday, internet trolls who have never been to his gym of 20 years started blowing up its Google page with threats and one-star reviews.

Read more: Vaccination appointments double in Quebec after province announces vaccine passport plan

The owner says the comments, like “burn to the ground,” and, “this person hit me with a weight,” are “unbelievable.”

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“It’s not a hostile position, it’s one that you have to take care of the majority and you have to take care of the people in your family and my own personal health,” said Gauthier.

Instead of waiting for the province to implement a vaccine passport, he took the initiative on his own, saying one COVID-19 case at Athletica Lac Brome would be too many.

“We can’t wait for people to make decisions. I’d rather act than to react,” said the private business owner, who admits he’s not interested in bureaucracy.

Without any software yet to scan QR codes, he checks customers’ proof of vaccination at the door. A few clients have left the gym, but a majority say they are happy with the new rule.

“I think it’s great; whatever measures he takes is all the better for us. We want to be protected, especially at my age,” said 78 year-old Ariel Labrouche.

Longtime client and trainer Karin Weiss said, “I know I can come in here knowing that everybody is fully vaccinated and that the chance of contracting the virus is a lot lower.”

Read more: Quebec moves towards vaccine passport after another spike in COVID cases

According to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, requiring somebody to be vaccinated is a violation but it can be justified.

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“It may be that other people will not come or his employees will not come if unvaccinated people are invited,” said lawyer Julius Grey.

Experts claim reasons like this may encourage those on the fence to get vaccinated.

“This may be just the nudge that they need to say, well, I want to keep doing all these non-essential social activities. I might as well go get the vaccine,” explained epidemiologist Dr. Christopher Labos.

Dr. Labos appeared to be right about that nudge. The number of vaccine bookings doubled after the province announced it would be implementing its vaccine passport on Thursday.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said on Friday that 11,519 Quebecers booked their first dose Thursday, which he says is double the number from the day before.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Quebec to implement vaccination passport with privileges after 2 doses' COVID-19: Quebec to implement vaccination passport with privileges after 2 doses
COVID-19: Quebec to implement vaccination passport with privileges after 2 doses – Aug 5, 2021

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