Last month, we wrote about the possibility that a special vaccine passport will be needed in the future in order to travel internationally. The rules for travelling outside of Canada differ depending on which country you intend to go to, but in the event that vaccine passports become a requirement for more and more countries, Canada has to be prepared to provide its residents with the necessary documentation in order to facilitate travel. Accordingly, Health Minister Patty Hajdu has indicated that the Canadian Government supports the idea of a vaccine passport and will introduce a form of vaccine certification that will allow vaccinated Canadians to travel internationally. Speaking on the issue, Minister Hajdu said:

“Canadians need to be able to have the right kind of certification for international travel because, as we know, Canadians will want to travel internationally, and they will want to make sure they have the right credentials to do that from a vaccination perspective. I am meeting on a regular basis with my G7 counterparts and this is an ongoing conversation about how that might look and how we might be able to have some sort of standardized approach to this.”

Minister Hajdu’s remarks suggest that there could be some sort of standardized vaccine certification agreement for citizens of the G7 countries, and possibly even more affiliated countries. In order to implement vaccine certification, Canada is looking at using the ArriveCAN app. The AriveCAN app is the app that the government of Canada uses to ensure travellers to Canada comply with the border restrictions instituted at the onset of the pandemic. Since November 2020, air travellers to Canada have been required to submit information on the app prior to arrival, and travellers coming across the land border have been using the app as well. The app is currently used to provide digital proof of COVID-19 testing and results, and potentially could be adapted to show a digital vaccine certification.

The idea of having a vaccine passport is not as controversial as it may have seemed initially. According to recent research, around 80% of Canadians agree that all travellers entering Canada should be required to have a vaccine passport. If you are planning to travel later this summer, be sure to check for updates on the requirement for vaccination passports both locally and in the locations you plan on visiting.

Travelling Within Canada

Regarding domestic travel within Canada, it is unlikely that vaccine passports will be required, as it would require an undue amount of monitoring at provincial borders. At this point, there are still restrictions on domestic travel within Canada, but as vaccination rates increase, those restrictions could be dropped this summer.

Currently, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec all have some form of travel restriction in place for non-essential travel in and out of the respective provinces. Prime Minister Trudeau indicated this week that travel restrictions should stay in place until at least 75% of the population has received the first shot. Currently, over 40% of Canadians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and Canada is continuing to receive increased quantities of vaccines, with an expectation that around 50 million shots to be delivered by July 1. Look out for these restrictions to be lifted this summer.

Travel Rule-Breakers Face Penalties

We recently wrote about the then-new mandatory hotel stay rule for air travellers coming into Canada. At the time, it was clear the rule was enforceable, but not how strictly it would be enforced. Now, there is a sense of how the rule is being enforced based on statistics released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (“PHAC”). According to the PHAC, 798 fines have been issued to travellers who arrived in Canada and refused to quarantine in a government-authorized hotel.

This number does not include any potential tickets that were issued in Quebec, as tickets in Quebec are issued from provincial officials rather than federal officials. Further, at this point, there is no record of any enforcement action in Alberta. It is unclear as to how much each fine was worth, but a violation of the rule can lead to a fine of $3,000 a day. It also seems like the number of fines has been increasing as only 404 tickets were issued to travellers as of April 19. So if you are travelling to Canada from abroad by air, be aware that non-compliance could be more costly than adhering to the hotel requirement.

Contact Garson Immigration Law in Toronto for Up to Date Immigration & Travel Advice

Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application. 

The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.

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