A Toronto-based privacy lawyer says an increasing number of Canadian businesses are considering putting policies in place that would require customers to provide proof of COVID-19 jabs before receiving service.
Molly Reynolds says a lot of businesses have been approaching her because they say they want to protect customers and employees as public health restrictions lift across the country.
“There are businesses of really every size, and in really every industry, who are thinking about this,” Reynolds, a lawyer with Torys LLP, said in an interview Wednesday.
“(They are thinking) in terms of what should they be doing to protect their customers and protect their employees and then also thinking whether any centralized provincial or federal government vaccine passports might be tools that they can use as part of considering rules around access to their premises.”
No tool currently exists and no public health authority in Canada currently requires businesses to ask for proof of vaccination, such as a document or a verbal confirmation. But no one has said they can’t do it either, Reynolds said.
“It really places that burden back on businesses to make their own assessments, because there isn’t regulatory or governmental guidance that they can align with,” she said.
Reynolds noted that businesses considering such a policy should be able to show that the privacy infringement is worth it if it protects communal health.
“Some businesses may say it is necessary, for example, because they serve vulnerable populations that may be particularly at risk for COVID-19 infections.”
Some organizations and businesses have already made vaccine policy decisions to protect their patrons and staff.
Organizers of the Calgary Stampede will require people who want to hear live music at its popular Nashville North venue to provide proof of vaccination to get in. The 10-day cowboy festival starts Friday.
“We will require guests to show proof of vaccination or take a free rapid (COVID-19) test to gain entry to Nashville North,” vice-president Jim Laurendeau told reporters this week. “This will be unique among Calgary’s live music venues this Stampede and provide a high level of assurance to our guests.”
Bodhi Tree Yoga in Regina says it will require its patrons to provide proof of vaccination to get moving in their studio after Saskatchewan reopens on Sunday.
The co-owner of the yoga studio, Colin Hall, said he has received an overwhelming amount of support and more than 500 messages from people who think the new rule will keep them and their neighbours safe.
“The primary risk for us is … how do we make sure that people have taken the step to go and get fully vaccinated, to make sure that they’re safe,” said Hall, who also offers therapeutic yoga classes for cancer patients with his wife.
“How do we as a business make our contribution to that as well and this is ultimately what we came up with,” he said in a phone interview.
Along with the yogis, some Calgarians are also on board with Stampede’s decision to require proof of a jab.
“I think it’s a smart move. I think it’s the kind of stuff that should be done to even get on the grounds,” said John Whitnack, who has been living in Calgary for 45 years and has attended Stampede in the past.
“I don’t know if it’s a practical long-term solution but, at this juncture, I think it’s prudent because there are enough people out there that aren’t vaccinated and don’t see the point or risk, so putting that burden on our health system isn’t fair to anyone else who has medical issues or emergencies.”
Ismail Naciri, who moved to Calgary from Quebec six months ago, also supports showing proof of COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think this is a good procedure because, with the pandemic, with this situation, people can get sick,” he said.
“I wouldn’t go if I wasn’t fully vaccinated. I would feel very, very worried.”
—Fakiha Baig and Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press