“During the pandemic, is it reasonable, for public health purposes, for governments to require the disclosure of this information? The question is not as clear-cut as it might seem,” said Daniel Therrien at a press conference on Dec. 9.
Therrien, who is investigating complaints on the issue under the Privacy Act, said all privacy commissioners’ offices across the country—provincially and territorially—are trying to advance privacy as a right in the context of the pandemic.
“We are investigating and therefore I cannot provide definitive conclusions, but we will in the context of the investigations we’re conducting,” he said.
Therrien said he has no advice for Canadians who were denied access to public services unless they disclosed their medical status. The issue was first reported on by Blacklock’s.
“That is exactly what we’re investigating,” Therrien said. “I’m not in a position to provide advice on this.”
But the privacy commissioner said the requirement for individuals to provide their health information such as vaccination status is “certainly a reduction of privacy.”
He added that there is no doubt the disclosure policies by the governments are “exceptional.”
“If it were not for the pandemic, obviously we would not have to provide information in restaurants or other venues to have access to these venues. So it is exceptional, there’s no question about that,” he said.
“It should not be permanent,” he added.
The federal government to date has not introduced a bill or written regulation with a legal text of vaccination orders.
“Unlike some other countries, immunization is not mandatory in Canada,” states the 1996 Canadian National Report on Immunization. “It cannot be made mandatory because of the Canadian Constitution.”
In a statement on May 19, Therrien stressed there must be clear legal authority before vaccine passports can be introduced.
“While [a vaccine passport] may offer substantial public benefit, it is an encroachment on civil liberties that should be taken only after careful consideration,” he wrote.
He added that mandating vaccine passports for Canadians who choose to travel or visit public facilities would require “a newly enacted public health order or law.”