A Province-by-Province Guide to Vaccine Passports in Canada
Here are the Canadian provinces and territories implementing vaccine passports and what you need to know.
As the Delta variant continues to fuel a fourth wave of COVID-19 in Canada, some provincial and territorial governments have begun to require residents over a certain age to provide proof of vaccination (dubbed “vaccine passports”) for access to non-essential events and businesses. Those who are not vaccinated will not be permitted to go to gyms, restaurants, movie theatres, and more.
In September, Canada’s vaccination rate started levelling off across the country, leading to an uptick in COVID cases, especially among the unvaccinated population. The hope is that vaccine passports will encourage unvaccinated Canadians to get immunized. In Quebec, the first province to announce a vaccine passport plan, the number of COVID-19 vaccine bookings doubled after the system was announced. Currently, about 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Here is everything you need to know about vaccine passports in Canada, including which provinces and territories have announced their plans. This piece will be updated as more vaccine passport systems are rolled out.
The federal government announced it’s working on a secure, national proof of vaccination for international travel, though how it will work has yet to be announced. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc stated the passport will be ready to go “early this fall,” but no specific date has been announced.
Starting September 13, proof of vaccination will be required for residents aged 12 and up accessing social events like ticketed sporting events, indoor concerts, indoor theatre/dance/symphony events, and indoor organized events like conferences and weddings. Proof of vaccination will also be required when visiting non-essential businesses like patio and indoor dining at restaurants, fitness centres, casinos, night clubs, and movie theatres. Just one dose is required for entry until October 24th, when the province will require proof of being fully vaccinated.
A secure weblink will be provided by the B.C. government before September 13, in which people will be able to access their proof of vaccination and save it to their phones to show businesses upon entry. For those without access to the internet, there will be a call-in centre that can provide proof as well (the details of which have yet to be announced).
Under the new policy, any out-of-province Canadian visiting B.C. will have to show proof of vaccination and valid government ID from their home province to access non-essential businesses and activities.
On September 15, Alberta declared a state of public health emergency and announced a “Restrictions Exemption Program.” Starting September 20, the new measure require people aged 12 or older to provide government-issued proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to access restaurants, indoor gatherings, retail and gyms. Those opting to get a COVID-19 test instead of vaccinations must present proof of a negative privately paid test, either PCR or Rapid Test, from within the previous 72 hours. Those with medical exception will be required to provide documentation.
To ease the transition, a single dose will be considered acceptable until October 25, as long as the dose was given two or more weeks before the time of service. After October 25, proof of double vaccination will be required across the province.
After a surge in cases, and some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, Saskatchewan announced plans to implement a proof of vaccination program by October 1. As of that date, all Government of Saskatchewan employees will be required to be fully vaccinated and the public will need to show proof of vaccination to access public spaces, such as indoor dining, entertainment venues and fitness centres.
Unvaccinated individuals will be able access these spaces by providing a negative PCR or rapid antigen COVID-19 test. Proof of vaccination will not be required for private gatherings, places of worship or retail businesses, including grocery stores.
Manitoba launched its vaccine card in June, which allowed fully immunized Manitobans to skip the mandatory quarantine after international travel. Now, as of September 3, fully immunized individuals will have to show their vaccine card to enter indoor and outdoor ticketed sporting events and concerts, indoor theatre/dance/symphony events, restaurants (both indoor and outdoor dining), nightclubs, casinos and bingo halls, movie theatres, fitness centres and organized indoor group recreational classes and businesses. Children under the age of 11 who are not eligible to be immunized can enter these spaces with a fully immunized adult.
Residents can visit this website to request a free vaccine card, and if eligible, they should receive a digital QR code instantly. A hard copy of the card will be sent to residents in the mail.
As of September 22, Ontario will require residents aged 12 and older (excluding those with medical exemptions) to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination and a piece of government-issued ID to access gyms, restaurants, bars, movie theatres, event spaces, and concert halls. Proof of vaccination will not be required for access to banks, retail shopping, salons and barbershops, places of worship, essential services, workplaces, and outdoor spaces like patios. Vaccine receipts are currently available at the provincial portal, and residents with red-and-white health cards can call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line (1-833-943-3900) for their vaccine receipt.
There are some specific exceptions to the proof of vaccination rules: anyone entering the inside of a restaurant or bar only to get takeout, to pay or to use the washroom, kids under 18 entering a recreational facility to participate in an organized sport (including dance, martial arts and swimming classes) and people entering an event facility solely to attend a wedding or funeral ceremony (the exception doesn’t apply to a reception or social gathering associated with the ceremony). However, until October 13, non-vaccinated people can attend these social gathering with a negative COVID-19 test administered within the last 48 hours.
Starting October 22, Ontario residents will be required to use a QR code for proof of vaccination. On October 15, the Ontario government announced that Ontarians will be able to download the province’s revamped proof of vaccination, which includes a scannable QR code. To avoid crashing the provincial site, Ontarians born in January to April can begin downloading on the 15th, those born from May to August can download on the 16th and those born from September to December on the 17th. Anyone can download their vaccine certificate starting the 20th. The province also launched “Verify Ontario,” a mobile app that will allow businesses to scan QR codes to verify patrons’ vaccination status.
On September 1, Quebec became the first Canadian province to require residents aged 13 or older (who aren’t granted an exemption for a medical reason) to show proof of vaccination to access non-essential businesses and events. These spaces include gyms, restaurants, bars, events, movie theaters, casinos, and more. Proof of vaccination can be downloaded by the provincial portal (or requested over the phone at 1-877-644-4545) and uploaded to the VaxiCode smartphone app, in a PDF on your phone, or on paper. By September 15, violators of the health order could be fined. Visitors of Québec are required to show photo ID and proof of full vaccination by their country or province.
Starting October 4, individuals over the age of 12 are now required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated—meaning they received two doses, or a combination, of approved COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson) at least 14 days prior—in order to get into non-essential events and businesses. Proof of vaccination will be required at restaurants, both indoors and on patios, casinos, museums, leisure facilities like arcades or dance studios and for indoor or outdoor sports leagues, for both participants and spectators. Proof of vaccination will not be required at banks, hair salons, clinics, places of worship, schools or other places deemed essential. Nova Scotia’s proof of vaccination policy is part of the final phase of the province’s reopening plan.
Those who received their COVID jabs in Nova Scotia should receive a digital copy of their ‘Nova Scotia COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination’ by email. Proof of vaccination info can also be accessed online or by calling 1-833-797-7772 (Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.).
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador’s vaccine passport comes in the form of two applications, the NLVaxPass for residents and NLVaxVerify for businesses. These apps are now both available for free on Google Play and in the Apple App Store. Through the app, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can access their proof of vaccination, or approved medical exemption, in the form of a QR code. This code will then be scanned to access specific businesses and settings such as restaurants and bars, cinemas, bingo halls, car dealerships and long-term care homes. The app can store proof of vaccination records for multiple individuals, such as family members. Alternatively, residents can access their QR code through the provincial COVID-19 Vaccine Portal or MyGovNL.
Along with proof of vaccination record, residents will also need to provide identification. Those without access to technology can call 1-833-951-3859 to request a printed copy or visit their local public library.
Prince Edward Island
PEI has the “PEI Pass,” which is only for people travelling to the province from outside of PEI. The Pass allows both visitors and returning Islanders who have had one or both vaccine doses to forgo self-isolating after arriving in the province. For those arriving in PEI from the other Atlantic provinces and the Magdalen Islands need just one dose at least 21 days prior to arrival to receive the PEI Pass. Those arriving from outside the Atlantic provinces and the Magdalen Islands need to have both doses. Children under the age of 12 must travel with at least one parent/guardian with a PEI pass.