Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer

Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer

In Canada, U.S., vaccine ‘passports’ could be new point of cross-border contention

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared receptive to the idea of vaccine-related travel documents

As if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t produced enough ways to complicate life at the border between Canada and the United States, here comes another: whether or not to require proof of vaccination.

Debate is heating up in the freedom-focused U.S. about whether retailers, businesses and employers can and should require customers, workers and visitors to prove they’ve had a vaccine.

The discussion is also happening in Canada, a country some observers say is more attuned to the collective good than many of those in the land of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Where the two meet up, potential snafus abound.

“Some of these discussions could be very challenging,” said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration.

“I don’t think that Canadians are going to look kindly on the idea that, you know, you could have significant numbers of people crossing the border that are unvaccinated.”

That could be part of the reason for the apparent difference of opinion that emerged Tuesday between Ottawa and the White House on the issue of requiring vaccine documentation.

“The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” press secretary Jen Psaki told the daily White House briefing.

The priority for the White House will be to protect the “privacy and rights” of U.S. residents “so that these systems are not used against people unfairly,” she said.

“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

Contrast that with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who — all the while couching his response in familiar too-soon caveats — appeared receptive to the idea of vaccine-related travel documents.

“We will continue to work with our partners in the United States and internationally to ensure that this is done properly,” Trudeau said in French about how best to reopen the Canada-U.S. border.

“We have already seen the importance of proof of vaccination for international travel … in a pre-pandemic period in recent years. It will surely be important, but the details of what we are going to do about it, we are still fine-tuning.”

A new online Léger poll, commissioned by Jedwab’s ACS and the Canadian Institute for Health Research at the University of Manitoba, suggests the idea is divisive on either side of the border.

Just over half of Canadian respondents, 52 per cent, said they support showing proof of vaccination to get into events or venues, compared with 43 per cent of their U.S. counterparts.

One-third of Canadians, or 33 per cent, said they opposed the idea, compared with 36 per cent of Americans who felt the same way. In the U.S., 21 per cent said they were undecided, compared with 15 per cent in Canada.

Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

READ MORE: CDC continues to warn U.S. travellers against ‘all travel to Canada’ due to COVID risk

Many Americans these days are predisposed to oppose anything they see as a threat to freedom, said Matthew Mitchell, a professor of international business and strategy at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I think with the rise of the don’t-tread-on-me ethos, especially within the last 10 years, any infringement on individual liberties is viewed with suspicion, is viewed with antagonism,” Mitchell said.

The country’s famous political polarization hasn’t helped.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who last month lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in his state, signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting the use of “vaccine passports” issued by the government.

“Don’t tread on our personal freedoms,” he tweeted.

The move follows a similar decision last week by another prominent Republican, lockdown opponent and outspoken Donald Trump ally, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy,” said the order signed by DeSantis.

What was initially a come-one, come-all approach to vaccines in Florida — later tempered to require at least some proof of temporary residency — has been attracting older visitors from Canada for months.

Interest has spiked again as Canadians confront a four-month wait between doses of the vaccine, a delay travel insurance specialist Martin Firestone said many of his clients simply aren’t willing to endure.

“All of a sudden, a new spate of calls from people saying, ‘This is crazy,’” Firestone said — in many cases, from clients who have already had their initial shot.

Once they’re immunized, they’re learning that getting the vaccine doesn’t afford them any latitude in Canada, whether it’s from insurance companies or the federal quarantine requirements for travellers.

“At this point, government and insurance companies are not recognizing at all that you’ve had any vaccine, and don’t care to see any proof of it,” Firestone said.

“Canada is just a basically turning a blind eye … and you’re not getting any credit, if that’s a good word, for having both vaccines.”

Fully vaccinated travellers do not have to be tested before leaving the U.S. unless a test is required at the destination, and self-quarantine upon returning home is also not required, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says.

U.S. citizens, including those who are fully vaccinated, do require a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before boarding a flight home.

“What will happen in the future?” asked Firestone. “That’s a great question — that will be the precursor to the vaccine passport, that we need to see proof that you’ve had the vaccine.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirusUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eli, left, Brent, Lindsay and Ava Wilson. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wilson)
West Shore families share experience in raising a child with autism

Two families reveal some parallels, but circumstances are different for everyone

Kit Thornton, chief aquarist at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, plays with Wanda, the female Giant Pacific octopus currently residing at the centre. The centre will release Wanda back into the wild next month. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
An octopus named Wanda will soon say goodbye to Sidney

Wanda’s personality is ‘complete opposite’ of previous octopus named after Dr. Bonnie Henry

Hamels Fabrics & Quilting is set to open on April 6 in Sooke. The shop is located at 2044 Otter Point Road. (Mark Martins/Pixabay)
Fabric and quilting store opens doors in Sooke

Shop is filled with all kinds of ‘bright, bold and cheery’ designs

Saanich Fire Department on the scene after a car crashed into the Walmart in Uptown. (Photo courtesy Dan Wood)
PHOTOS: Saanich firefighters free trapped workers at Uptown Walmart

Incident reported as explosion after driver rammed through wall

Tiny packets of carrots ready to be distributed in Victoria. (Submitted/Victoria Seed Share)
Free Victoria seed sharing collective bags work experience funding

Fully volunteer run Victoria Seed Share will get a boost from provincial grant

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

Immunization plan comes with built-in options for any unused vaccines at the end of the day

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are recovering and the team still intends to play a 56-game season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks players ‘mostly on the other side’ of COVID outbreak: general manager

The athletes have had a “whole range” of COVID-19 symptoms, said team physician Dr. Jim Bovard, but no one has needed to be hospitalized

Most Read