B.C. vaccine passport risks discriminating against vulnerable groups, advocates say

Click to play video: 'Province addresses COVID-19 vaccine passport enforcement concern'
Province addresses COVID-19 vaccine passport enforcement concern
WATCH: The B.C. government is reinforcing its stance on vaccine passports and how the measures will be enforced. – Sep 2, 2021

A number of community groups are calling on the B.C. government to provide exemptions to its incoming COVID-19 vaccine passport, over concerns about how it will affect some of the province’s most vulnerable.

Twenty-five groups have signed on to a statement from the Pivot Legal Society warning the program will discriminate against marginalized people.

The Disability Alliance of B.C., one of the signatories, said applying the vaccine passport to people who are medically unable to get the immunized amounts to discrimination.

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“We have to find a line between navigating the human rights of people with disabilities and accessing services while also protecting the overall population,” Alliance Alliance co-executive director Helaine Boyd said.

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Boyd told Global News that some people have been advised by their doctors that they should not get the shot and that they’ll be shut out of many services in B.C. despite having no choice in the matter.

“We think that overall, the human rights violation within the charter of rights and freedoms for people with disabilities that are in this situation can be rectified by providing medical exemptions,” she said.

“It’s a small amount of people that are within this situation where they tried to get the vaccine and they haven’t been given approval by their doctor. Because it’s such a small amount of people it shouldn’t affect the B.C. government’s overall goal.”

Click to play video: 'Backlash and anger after anti-vaccine protestors target B.C. hospitals'
Backlash and anger after anti-vaccine protestors target B.C. hospitals

Watari Counselling and Support Services, a group that works with undocumented workers in B.C., has been running vaccination clinics with the support of public health and local community groups.

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But executive director Ingrid Mendez said the group’s clients have been left on edge fearing they won’t be able to prove their immunization status when the passport program kicks in.

Most, she said, are not signed up for B.C.’s Medical Services Plan, don’t have a personal health number, and don’t have a B.C. ID or B.C. Services Card.

“Since the announcement we have had a bunch of phone calls from people saying ‘how are we going to do this?'” she said.

Mendez wants the province to come up with an accommodation that will let the group create proof of immunization at its clinics.

“When we have our vaccine clinics and people come for their second shot, can we print the vaccine record for them? Is there a way the government can work with us and community-based organizations so we can do it right there and then, and people don’t have to stress about this?”

B.C.’s vaccine card program is slated to take effect on Sept. 13, at which point people will need to show proof of immunization to access a range of non-essential services, including restaurants, indoor concerts and indoor sporting events.

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Officials have provided little other information about how the program will work, save that a “secure alternative” will be available for people who can’t access their immunization record online.

The province is expected to release full details about the plan next Tuesday.

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