Canada

Feds say provinces will issue ‘standardized’ proof of vaccination for travel

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OTTAWA —
Instead of issuing a singular federal national COVID-19 vaccine passport, the federal government says that each province and territory will be responsible for issuing a “standardized pan-Canadian” vaccine passport that Canadians can use when travelling abroad.

The proposed system means that, as is currently the case, provincial vaccine proof apps or paperwork will continue to be the main way that Canadians will have to show their vaccination status.

Each province’s system will have a “common” look and feel, including containing the passport-holder’s name and date of birth, information on the vaccines they have received – which types, how many doses, and when they were administered, as well as a QR code.

The federal government is promising to promote this system internationally, so that border agencies, organizations, and businesses across the globe will be able to recognize and rely on these passports as Canadian documents because of the placement of a “Canada” word-mark in the upper-right-hand corner.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland are announcing the details of their plans at a press conference in Ottawa following a briefing by departmental officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, and Canada Border Services Agency.

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According to federal officials who briefed reporters prior to the press conference, the government explored different models, including one federally-issued document, but ultimately concluded that the “best way” and the way to “make it as easy as possible” was to use the existing provincial proof of vaccination systems.

“Provinces and territories are issuing this proof as they hold all of the vaccination information. The Government of Canada agreed that there was limited value in creating a national vaccination database and duplicating what provincial and territorial authorities are doing well,” said an official speaking on a not-for-attribution basis.

The passport is already available to Canadians whose provinces and territories have issued vaccine credentials: Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon. The remaining provinces are set to issue their passports within the next month, ahead of holiday travel season.

The passports will verification measures to prohibit falsification, and can also be used with ArriveCan when submitting information when returning from other countries, officials said.

With countries continuing to open up their borders to recreational international travellers, many are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccine to enter, including the United States. Canada has been in talks with international governments about a vaccine passport for foreign travellers for several months.

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In August, the government announced that it was collaborating with the provinces and territories to develop a “pan-Canadian approach” that would facilitate cross-border travel. At the time, they said they were focusing on making the certification digital and that documentation would be accessible in all forms.

Canadian travellers will soon need vaccine documentation for almost every mode of transportation, as the federal vaccine mandate for domestic air and rail travel is set to come into effect next week.

Employees and passengers in the federally-regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors will have to be fully vaccinated as of Oct. 30. There will be a short period of time where proof of a negative COVID-19 test will be acceptable to board, though by the end of November that option will no longer be available.

With files from CTV News’ Ben Cousins and Sarah Turnbull

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