Photo By: David M. Skiba via Shutterstock

The Ontario government will be launching their vaccine passport program in the coming days across the province.

On Sept. 1, the Ontario government announced their plans to launch the vaccine certification program. This program was created in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 by requiring patrons at certain businesses and settings to provide proof of a complete vaccination series. 

This has resulted in a great deal of controversy, with some Ontarians arguing that this policy is an infringement on their freedom of movement, while others compare it to their Ontario Immunization Record which has always been a requirement in schools and workplaces.

“I feel like vaccine passports have implications of a dangerous step in government control. Having our health records used to be very confidential and now it’s on the path where it will be out in the open for every store, business, and person to have access to,” said Dillon Mariglia, fourth-year social work student. 

Many protests have been sparked in response to the upcoming passport program, including right here at Brock.

The program is set to be launched on Sept. 22, and targets higher-risk indoor settings, including the following venues listed on the Government of Ontario website:

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout)
  • Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment)
  • Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference centres
  • Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities, with the exception of youth recreational sport
  • Sporting events
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas
  • Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Racing venues (e.g., horse racing)

A major concern in the conversations surrounding vaccine passports has been the economic impact of requiring customers to be fully vaccinated. For many businesses, this summer was the first time they were able to welcome customers back into their stores in almost two years. While in the midst of pandemic recovery, many small businesses cannot afford to send patrons away. In addition to COVID-19 safety protocols, business owners must also prepare their employees for aggressive behaviour from patrons who are refused entry.

“I definitely think it will decrease the number of customers we have coming into the restaurant, and I’m sure our hosts will have to deal with [the customers’] frustration when they are refused entry,” said Julia Becevel, a server at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar in Niagara Falls. “However, we’re put at risk every time we come into work because customers are not required to wear their masks once seated, and often forget to put [their mask] on when walking to the restrooms or exiting the restaurant. I think it will also encourage people to get vaccinated because dining out is a big social aspect of people’s lives.”

Ontario’s rollout will occur in two phases. Starting Sept. 22, people will have to show either a paper or electronic record of vaccination. By Oct. 22, the Ontario government has promised to release an app where people can upload their vaccination receipt and scan using a QR code. Paper and electronic records will still be accepted after the app is released.

Currently, just over 78% of eligible Ontarians are fully vaccinated. For more vaccination statistics, click here. Also, to stay up to date on vaccine passport regulations, click here.