Canada is getting a vaccine passport for international travel, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced on Wednesday.
“We are working actively with the provinces and territories on a secure, pan-Canadian proof of vaccination for international travel,” he said.
The vaccine certificate will be common across all provinces, and will include the holder’s COVID-19 vaccination history, the date they got it, the type of jab they received and the location where they received their shot. It will be available to all citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents living in Canada who are fully vaccinated.
As for a timeline, the passport will be ready to go “early this fall,” according to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
In the meantime, the government will have to gather all the vaccination data from each province and territory in order to plug it into their new passport system and get it ready to go.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already raised this issue with the premiers at least three separate times, LeBlanc said — and their reaction was “extraordinarily encouraging and positive.”
“(Trudeau) was very clear that this is, properly, data that is is in the hands of provincial health authorities. We just need to have the secure, safe way to access the data in order to produce this proof of vaccine credential,” LeBlanc said.
“We’re very confident that that process will unfold smoothly.”
And while the passport is being crafted with international travel in mind, the federal government is happy to work with the provinces to use it as a domestic proof-of-vaccination tool, too, he added.
“If the provinces wish to work with us in order to use our federal credentials within their province, we would be happy to work with them,” LeBlanc said.
Global News has contacted the provinces to see whether they plan to use the federal passport domestically, too.
The announcement comes on the heels of Quebec’s decision to implement a COVID-19 vaccine passport as of Sept. 1, which the province’s Health Minister Christian Dubé announced on Tuesday.
Quebec’s vaccine passport will only be used for access to non-essential services, like gyms, bars, restaurants and festivals. The province said the proof of vaccination won’t be required for retail stores, and discussions are underway as to whether events like weddings or religious gatherings will use the system.
Experts have been divided on the issue of whether a vaccine passport is necessary. As some businesses started forging their own path and requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination to enter the premises, the move was met with mixed reactions.
“If we were to deny people access, like right now, this would be very unfair for a lot of reasons — there are many Canadians out there that have not had the chance or the opportunity to have double vaccination,” said Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist with University of Toronto, when asked about businesses mandating vaccinations in mid-July.
He acknowledged at the time that this position could be revisited as vaccine access becomes more widespread. Still, Bowman said, “I hope we won’t need it at all.”
Speaking back in January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said a domestic vaccine passport could have “real divisive impacts” for Canadians. However, by mid-July, Trudeau softened his stance, leaving the decision up to the provinces.
“The provinces will be making determinations,” he said at a July 13 press conference. “We’ve seen Quebec for example, move forward with an internal vaccine passport. Alberta has announced that it will not be doing that. Different provinces will be doing different things.”