The provincial government has plans that include a mockup vaccination receipt with a QR code that links to a digital certificate. The code could then be stored with smartphone apps and scanned to verify someone’s vaccination status, according to the documents, which were first obtained by researcher Ken Rubin through the freedom of information legislation and shared with the Globe and Mail.
The digital “immunity certificates” was planned for a potential launch in January, but the Ontario government has yet to proceed with it.
In an email to the Globe, Travis Kann, executive director of communications to Premier Doug Ford, said nothing has been finalized to date.
“As the documents … make clear, this is a very early summary of options if Ontario is contemplating launching a record or certificate of vaccination. No decision to do so has been made at this time,” Kann wrote.
Currently in Ontario, vaccinated residents receive paper receipts to prove their status. Provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott said last month that a digital version will be offered at a later time.
“People will receive proof-of-vaccination, a printed statement upon receipt of their second dose of the COVID vaccination,” said Elliott, reported 680 News.
“Then, if they wish, they can also have it sent to them digitally so that they can have it on their phone as well.”
Last December, she said this kind of vaccination proof could allow vaccinated Canadians to travel, work, or use it for leisure purposes.
“That’s going to be really important for people to have for travel purposes, perhaps for work purposes, for going to theatres or cinemas, or any other places where people will be in closer physical contact when we get through the worst of the pandemic,” Elliott said.
“That will be essential for people to have.”
The provincial documents include a summary proposal that suggests the digital certificates could “speed up entry-point screening at workplaces, schools, government buildings and/or businesses,” as well as “motivate Ontarians to get vaccinated sooner, so they can benefit from faster access to these locations.”
Another proposal in the documents suggests assigning a “risk score” to each resident in Ontario from a scale of zero to five, indicating whether the individual has “full immunity,” no immunity, received one or two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, etc.
Meanwhile, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Ottawa is committed to speaking with international partners in regards to vaccine passports for international travel.
“However that conversation evolves, we want to make sure that Canadians have the right kinds of documentation for future travel,” Hajdu told reporters in a press conference Tuesday.
Lisa Bildy, staff lawyer at Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom, disagrees with the idea of COVID-19 passports, saying it presents a threat to Canadians’ rights.
“Unfortunately, just like they did with lockdowns, a lot of countries appear to be jumping on the bandwagon of COVID passports without really thinking through their consequences,” she said in a video on YouTube.
“Look what’s happened with mask mandates. They’ve become increasingly strict over time and those who cannot wear them are finding it very difficult to access even essential healthcare.”
“So while COVID passports are now being presented as a way of open things up for travel and large sporting events, it won’t be long, I’m concerned, before you … need one when you go to a grocery store or to your job.”
She added Canada will soon have a two tier system where some people have their rights and freedom while others are shut out from theirs.
“What happens to the people who can’t be vaccinated, to those who aren’t even at risk from COVID, to those who have natural immunities from a prior infection or to those who are marginalized or don’t have a smartphone to hold their passport?” she asked.
The Charter rights and freedom protect Canadians from the infringements by the government, but if the trend continues, “we are paving the way to giving up access to a normal life,” she concluded.