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With two weeks to go, questions remain about B.C. vaccine passports

Click to play video: 'More concerns about enforcing B.C.’s vaccine passport' More concerns about enforcing B.C.’s vaccine passport
WATCH: The B.C. Vaccination Certificate program goes into effect Sept. 13, but there are concerns that seniors and low-income individuals without smartphones won't have easy access to it. Grace Ke reports – Aug 30, 2021

On Sept. 13, everyone over the age of 12 will be required to provide proof of at least one of dose of COVID-19 vaccine to access certain businesses and events.

With that day fast approaching, some business owners say they have plenty of questions about how a vaccine card system will work.

“I’d like to know exactly what the app is, how it looks, how we can in an expedited, reasonable way have people on a busy Friday night make it through the door,” Carl McCreath of the Steamworks Restaurant Group said.

Click to play video: 'Concerns about access to vaccination certificates' Concerns about access to vaccination certificates
Concerns about access to vaccination certificates – Aug 30, 2021

Another key concern is related to enforcement.

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“At times you deal with some pretty irate customers,” McCreath said. “I think everybody’s tensions are pretty wound up right now with the pandemic. So there’s definitely been some hot conversations with people trying to enforce some of the rules.”

Last week, B.C Premier John Horgan said businesses should call police if they’re confronted by would-be patrons who refuse to abide by the province’s incoming COVID-19 vaccine card system.

“With respect to enforcement, it’s not unlike with respect to nightclubs or the hospitality sector,” he said.

“If they have difficulty with patrons they call law enforcement, and I expect that’s what will happen with respect to the vaccination cards.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 Infection rate numbers for August 30, 2021' COVID-19 Infection rate numbers for August 30, 2021
COVID-19 Infection rate numbers for August 30, 2021

Police unions are concerned about the strain enforcing B.C.’s new COVID-19 vaccine passport will put on resources that are already stretched thin.

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“Our concerns are very high about what this will look like for the members and there’s only so many calls we can attend,” said Robert Farrer of the National Police Federation, the union representing RCMP officers.

“So until we get more resources, I’m not sure where we go from there.”

Read more: Horgan says businesses facing people defying vaccine passport can ‘call law enforcement’

On Monday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said there will be issues around enforcement.

“There is always the uncertainty of something that was never in place before and is now going to be in place on Sept. 13,” he said. “But we’re going to work through these issues with all of our partners to make sure that this is a success.”

McCreath is predicting some friction, at least to start.

Read more: Police unions say enforcing B.C. vaccine passport a ‘concern’ given lack of resources

“You’ve got front-line employees that are typically the entry-level positions, typically a little bit younger,” he said. “Some of these people that don’t want to comply can be quite aggressive.

“So I do feel like there’s a confrontation there that’s kind of waiting to happen.”

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Meanwhile, advocates note that the proof of vaccination could disproportionately impact marginalized populations.

Walking into a fast-food restaurant may seem like a non-essential service for many people, but for those experiencing homelessness, it can be an important lifeline.

Click to play video: 'RCMP union says enforcing B.C. vaccine passport a ‘concern’ given lack of resources' RCMP union says enforcing B.C. vaccine passport a ‘concern’ given lack of resources
RCMP union says enforcing B.C. vaccine passport a ‘concern’ given lack of resources – Aug 29, 2021

Nicole Mucci with the Union Gospel Mission says questions remain about how people experiencing homelessness, undocumented people, marginalized groups and seniors will be able to access the vaccine card system, which will be based largely on a smartphone app.

“We want to know how is the outreach going to happen for people in the Downtown Eastside or for people who are experiencing homelessness,” she said.

“We want to know what that card is going to look like and we want to know how people can access it if they don’t have their public health number or if they don’t have photo identification.”

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Click to play video: 'Politicians face backlash over vaccine passports' Politicians face backlash over vaccine passports
Politicians face backlash over vaccine passports – Aug 28, 2021

Watari Counselling and Support Services also raises concerns about those who face immigration and language barriers.

“They won’t be able to get BC Services Card. They won’t be able to apply for that passport,” Watari’s Ingrid Mendez said.

“So we are very concerned about how this measure is already marginalizing people that are already marginalized and are struggling a lot with their status in Canada and now this is adding to it.”

Dix said options will be available.

“There will be an alternative to smartphones for people who require that alternative and that will be in place. We’ll be providing a full briefing to everybody in the province on the details of that well in advance of it coming into place.

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“So all of those things are being worked through and we’re going to work through them methodically step by step as we have at every point in the pandemic.”

— with files from Simon Little and The Canadian Press

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