Ontario businesses are bracing themselves for potential conflicts that may arise when the province’s new proof of vaccination system goes into effect next week.
Next Wednesday, Sept. 22, patrons will be required to show their full vaccination status before they are allowed to dine indoors, go to indoor gym space, and other higher risk activities. After the recent spike in protests by those opposed to vaccine mandates or the vaccines entirely, some are predicting choppy waters ahead.
Toronto’s Little Italy is bustling with restaurants and the manager of Vivoli isn’t expecting every patron coming to eat will be appetized by requests to see their vaccination status.
“We’re going to get a lot of kick-back for sure,” said Mike Chad.
For the time being, Chad said the restaurant will be able to rely on its abundance of patio space. Outdoor dining doesn’t require full vaccination status under the province’s rules. But with colder weather on the horizon, Chad doesn’t expect the free ride to last for much longer.
“Who’s going to come if someone starts yelling at a server or yelling at the manager for not being allowed to come in?” said Chad.
Down the street, Julian Morana said he’s hoping for some customer goodwill when it comes to checking vaccination papers.
“I think it’s going to delay service so I hope everyone that is going out and dining who is vaccinated is patient,” he said. “Because we’re going to be verifying double-vax, so that’s going to take some time.”
Morana said if this is what’s required to keep his business from closing in another lockdown, he’s all for it. But he doesn’t think the government should be forcing businesses and restaurants to police their laws.
It will fall on bylaw officers to do the majority of that legwork. But the Minister of Health said Tuesday that some businesses may be required to call emergency services.
“If any of them feel threatened, we want them to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible,” said Christine Elliott. But she, along with other municipal leaders, are downplaying the potential for mass discontent over the vaccination policies.
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NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused Elliott of being out of touch with reality for making that assertion. Especially after protests over vaccination mandates have occurred not only on the front lawn of Queen’s Park earlier in the week, but also just down the road in front of hospitals.
“What the government didn’t do is bother to think about what kind of resources are going to be necessary to help ensure that this passport system works,” said Horwath.
The government has since clarified that police shouldn’t be called unless it is in fact an emergency. Adding business owners are already used to dealing with difficult customers and are well equipped to sort out disputes.
The Ontario Association of Police Chiefs is echoing that call, adding it will be up to Ministry of Labour inspectors and bylaw officers to handle the majority of citations.
“Police officers will not be going and asking individuals for status of their certification,” said OACP spokesperson Joe Couto. “That’s not our job.”
“There may be instances it’s related,” Couto added. “If for instance, there are disputes that escalate into where people feel unsafe.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business continues to call into question how the government expects businesses to handle the roll out. Its president and CEO Dan Kelly said he’s been inundated with calls from members who have already been stretched thin throughout the pandemic.
“These are the same businesses that were closed down, in some cases for up to 400 days,” said Kelly.
Now he said those same businesses, many of whom have little financial resources left, are being required to devote resources to policing customer’s vaccinations. Without, he added, a nickel of new support from the provincial government.