Quebec's vaccine passport brings confusion, questions and relief

Quebec's vaccine passport means there's a new element added to the everyday interactions in the province, and business owners and residents still have some questions and concerns about how the system works.

Province adjusts to system meant to limit many activities for unvaccinated people

Jimmy Staveris, left, manager of Dunn's Famous restaurant in Montreal, scans the QR code of a client as the Quebec government's COVID-19 vaccine passport comes into effect. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Quebec's vaccine passport means there's a new element added to the everyday interactions in the province, and business owners and residents still have some questions and concerns about how the system works.

Starting today, digital or paper proof of adequate vaccination is now required across Quebec in order to take part in a long list of activities, including going to restaurants, bars, and gyms. 

People between the ages of 16 and 74 will also need to show photo ID. 

There's a two-week grace period, so the new rules will only be strictly enforced as of Sept. 15. 

Most people who showed up this morning to Café Vito, a coffee shop in Montreal's Villeray neigbourhood, did not have their proof of vaccination. That wasn't a big deal on the first day.

But Vito Azzue, the shop's owner, said he expects interactions with customers get more difficult in the coming days and weeks, when the passports become mandatory. There were some puzzled looks this morning, he said.

"Oh yeah, I got mixed feelings, mixed faces. Some people are okay with it because they want life to go on, and some people are not very happy with it," Azzue said, regarding the reaction to the new system. 

"I'm only wondering what's going to happen tomorrow morning, and the one after that, because people just won't be ready for it."

Although the new rules won't be strictly enforced for another two weeks, businesses across Quebec are now scanning their customers' vaccination passports before serving them. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Details fuzzy for some

Although Azzue is asking customers for their proof of vaccination, he's still unsure about the rules for specific situations. 

"I need to understand how it works. If somebody goes in and out seven times, and there's inspector that says I didn't scan that person, but I did it [this] morning …what happens there?" Azzue asked.

According to the rules, he will need to check the person's vaccination passports each time. 

"I know all my clients by first name, now I will know their last names because of this new vaccine passport," he said.

Daisy Kawass, who was grabbing a coffee, said she's in favour of the new measures, after the last year and a half.

"I mean, we're all in the same boat and we have to advance the situation," she said.

Vitto Azzue, right, owns Café Vito in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood. (Alex Leduc/CBC)

Adapting on the first day

Vince Spinale, who owns Café Felice in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood, said he gave his regulars a heads up ahead of time.

"Most of my customers, I've been warning them since Monday and so far, so good, everyone's had their QR codes," Spinale said.

For Christiane Ghorayeb, a coach at CrossFit Wonderland, a gym in the city's Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, the first morning of scanning vaccination passports went smoothly.

And things should only get easier moving forward, since gym staff don't plan on asking regular customers for proof of vaccination before each workout. Instead, they'll put a note in the members' files.

"We don't have random drop-ins. [Since] it's a pretty small community in our gym, we're able to just scan it once," she told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Rosa Silvestri and Gerlando Caltagirone were happy to show their vaccination passports at Café Vito in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood. (Alex Leduc/CBC)

Out of province troubles

Henry Chen, an Ontario resident, said he was turned away from a breakfast restaurant, even though he had official proof he had been vaccinated in his home province, along with a photo ID, as stipulated by the province.

"You know I had kids around as well, we were really looking forward to it. And I was actually at the same restaurant getting breakfast yesterday, and that was fine. So, you know, we were quite disappointed," he said.

Chen said he ordered take-out instead. He said he's in favour of a vaccine passport, but he hoped it would be mandated across the country by the federal government.

Health Minister Christian Dubé has reiterated that proof of vaccination and an out-of-province ID is sufficient.

Premier François Legault said he is in talks with premiers to have the system harmonized, so that "the passport that we have in Quebec, can be used, for example, in Ontario or in B.C. or in other provinces."

He said that the "vast majority" of Quebecers support the use of a vaccine passport.

"They want to return back to normal life," he said. "I think there is kind of solidarity between the population and the owners of these places. So I expect it will go quite smoothly."

WATCH | How does Quebec's vaccine passport work?

How does Quebec's vaccination passport really work? We tested it out

2 years ago
Duration 2:55
Featured VideoVerity Stevenson headed out in Montreal on the first day of the new measures and has a practical guide to how it all works.

With files from Alex Leduc and CBC Montreal's Daybreak