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 84 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.
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The federal government has announced a standardized proof of vaccination in an effort to facilitate domestic and international travel. Unlike some provinces which have physical proof of vaccination cards, the federal vaccine passport will be in the form of a digital QR code. All of Canada’s provinces and territories will be moving forward with the federal vaccine passport, meaning that eventually Canadians will be able to present their federal QR code as proof of vaccination, no matter where in Canada they received their vaccinations.
On October 21, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the pan-Canadian proof of vaccination is now available to residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon. The vaccine passport is expected to be available in more provinces soon. The federal standardized proof of vaccination went into effect on October 30 and is required by travellers 12 and over boarding domestic flights or trains. Canadians travelling internationally will be required to present their passport along with their federal QR code, which can also be used with the ArriveCan mobile app when returning to Canada.
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.
A secure weblink was provided by the B.C. government granting access to proof of vaccination and allowing users to save the info to their phones. Under the new policy, any out-of-province Canadian visiting B.C. 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.” As of September 20, the measure required 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 are required to provide documentation.
Effective November 15, Alberta now requires proof of vaccination to be presented as a QR code. Alberta COVID-19 vaccine records with a QR code are available online, and can be easily saved on a smartphone or printed out. Albertans can also receive a free printed vaccination records and QR code via a registry agent office or by calling 811. Businesses require patrons to present their proof of vaccination QR code along with a valid ID.
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 were required to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination must be shown to access public spaces, such as indoor dining, entertainment venues and fitness centres. Unvaccinated individuals are able to access these spaces by providing a negative PCR or rapid antigen COVID-19 test. Proof of vaccination is 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.
Residents can visit this website to request a free vaccine card and a digital QR code. A hard copy of the card will be sent to residents in the mail.
(Related: What You Need to Know About COVID Variants in Canada)
As of September 22, Ontario required 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 is not required for access to banks, retail shopping, salons and barbershops, places of worship, essential services, workplaces and outdoor spaces like patios. Vaccine receipts are 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).
As of October 22, Ontario residents are required to use a QR code for proof of vaccination. On October 15, the Ontario government announced that Ontarians can download the province’s revamped proof of vaccination, which includes a scannable QR code. The province also launched “Verify Ontario,” a mobile app that will allow businesses to scan QR codes to verify patrons’ vaccination status.
(Related: Could Protection from COVID Soon Be Available Through a Nasal Spray?)
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 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 is then 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
P.E.I. has the “P.E.I. Pass,” which is only for people travelling to the province from outside of P.E.I. 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. Individuals must be fully vaccinated to be eligible for the P.E.I. Pass. Those who are not fully vaccinated, including those who have only received one dose, will need to self isolate for eight days.