As provinces begin post-pandemic plans to reopen as myriad of COVID-19 risks diminish, group of ombudsmen from across the country are warning premiers and other officials to weigh potential pitfalls of having people show proof of vaccination – or vaccination passports – to access public services.
The Canadian Council of Parliamentary Ombudsman on Wednesday released a guide explaining how, if they intend to create such a passport system, provincial and territorial governments can avoid human rights complaints and court challenges. by creating fair and transparent rules.
“For every action there is a reaction, so we don’t want to inadvertently affect someone’s right or someone’s access to a government-provided service,” said CHC President Bill. Smith, Ombudsman for Nova Scotia, to The Globe and Mail. “You can see how something as simple as taking a driving test can require a vaccination certificate or enter a recreational arena.”
The report says that in order to create a fair system, any government must give clear direction on the new rules by passing a new law or making the new policy accessible to the public. They must also incorporate a review and appeal mechanism for those who challenge the vaccination passport requirement and welcome those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, the ombudsmen note.
Last week, the privacy commissioners of Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments issued a joint statement sounding a similar warning to politicians hoping to bring such passports. Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra also said last week he could not yet commit to a date – or COVID-19 vaccination baseline rates – for when vaccine passports will allow Canada to ease its restrictions on international air travel, which have been restricted to Montreal and Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver Airports.
So far, the provinces have only discussed creating passport programs for vaccines, Smith said.
Last December, the Ontario government debated its intention to issue digital “certificates of immunity” to people who received their COVID-19 vaccine, according to provincial government documents obtained through the legislation. access to information and reported last month by The Globe. Prime Minister’s communications chief Doug Ford said his government had drawn up these plans to examine all options, but had not decided to create such a system.
Quebec started sending people electronic proof of their vaccination earlier this month, but the provincial government said it was still analyzing the idea of a vaccination passport.
In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney said his government would not require or provide vaccine passports.
“We have made it clear that we will not facilitate so-called vaccine passports,” Kenney said in an online question-and-answer session earlier this month.
He added that anyone in Alberta who needs proof of vaccination to travel overseas should use the documentation they received when they received their vaccine.
The United Conservative Party government introduced a bill that would remove an old provision in the province’s Public Health Act that allowed the government to force people to get vaccinated. The change was approved by the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, who noted that the provision had never been used.
At a Tuesday press conference unveiling BC’s plan to reopen, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said she was studying the matter and did not want proof of vaccination required on the west coast of Canada.
“This virus has shown us that there are inequalities in our society that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, and there is no way we are recommending increasing the inequalities by using things like vaccine passports for them. services. [or] for public access here in British Columbia, ”she told reporters. “This is my advice and I have the support of the… Prime Minister.”
When kids return to school in British Columbia this fall, they’re unlikely to need to prove they’ve been vaccinated, says Terri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, which is against passports. vaccine. Ms Mooring, who represents 45,000 public educators, said underprivileged teens and their families have struggled to get vaccinated in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in Metro Vancouver.
Even though the province has legislated up to three hours of paid leave so that all workers can get vaccinated, this does not apply to transporting family members to receive their vaccines, she said. declared. Additionally, many single parents have multiple jobs and may find it difficult to get to their local mass vaccination sites, she added. Ms Mooring said the union did not see why some large schools could not immunize students on site, which would facilitate access for them and their parents.
“The passport plays in this [inequity], because in a way you could be discriminating against students through no fault of their own, ”she said.
With a report by James Keller in Calgary and The Canadian Press
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