Canada Open to the Idea of Vaccine Passports: Health Minister

March 10, 2021 Updated: March 10, 2021

Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the federal government is open to the idea of introducing a vaccine passport in Canada.

During an interview on CTV’s Question Period on March 7, Hajdu said Ottawa is “certainly working on the idea of vaccine passports with our G7 partners.”

“I was on a call with my G7 health minister counterparts just a couple of weeks ago, and that is a very live issue,” Hajdu said.

But the health minister said more has to be done, especially with the kind of evidence or documents that people need to provide in order to travel internationally, adding that industry groups are already looking into it as well as Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

“We’ll be coming back to Canadians as we understand more about the intentions of our counterparts internationally, and as we understand more about how that will unfold around the world,” she said.

A vaccine passport is essentially a way to prove that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus causes, and depending on the country’s restrictions, would allow them to travel internationally or attend events or enter bars. Meanwhile, those who are unvaccinated would not be permitted to do so.

The idea has gained momentum among world leaders.

On March 1, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that the commission will propose a digital “green pass” that “should facilitate Europeans’ lives.”

The proposal will be presented on March 17 and the EU seeks to cooperate with international organizations to ensure that its system also works beyond the European Union.

“The aim is to provide: proof that a person has been vaccinated, results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet, info on COVID-19 recovery,” von der Leyen wrote, such that it will “gradually enable them to move freely in the European Union or abroad—for work or tourism.”

Though yet to be enforced, Greece, Spain, Austria, and Bulgaria have already called for an EU-wide approach to implement the vaccine certificate earlier this year. Denmark, Sweden, and Finland plan to launch a digital passport to record a traveller’s vaccination status.

Meanwhile Israel and China have rolled out their versions of vaccine passports.

While Canada, G7, and the EU are keen on the idea, the World Health Organization (WHO), on the other hand, has warned against it for now.

There are “real practical and ethical considerations” for countries thinking of using vaccine certifications as a condition for travel, said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director for the WHO’s emergencies program, at a press briefing on March 8.

“Vaccination is just not available enough around the world and is not available certainly on an equitable basis,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will follow the guidance of experts regarding vaccine passports at a news conference on Feb. 26.

“There are potential pros and cons that I’ve heard on various issues surrounding it,” Trudeau said. “Our position as a government is always going to be to rely on the best advice of experts.”

Ryan O’Conor, a lawyer at Zayouna Law Firm in the Greater Toronto Area, said the idea of vaccine passports must be aborted.

“The Liberals ought to completely disavow vaccine passports for intra-Canada travel and participation in daily life. Such measures breach several sections of the Charter, are discriminatory, and create a two-tier citizenry,” O’Conor wrote on Twitter Tuesday. 

With files from The Canadian Press, Reuters and The Associated Press.