More N.B. businesses shift to requiring proof of vaccination from customers
Businesses free to choose what safety measures they require, Public Safety Department says
For Cara Hazelton, it was a clear decision.
The owner of Precision Pilates Fredericton posted on Facebook that as of Sept. 7, she will only allow customers to attend in-studio classes if they are vaccinated.
"This is a privately owned business and we can refuse service," Hazelton said in an interview.
As a business owner, Hazelton decided that offering in-person services to those who are unvaccinated is too much of a gamble for clientele who are more vulnerable, including the elderly and parents of children under age 12.
"They're still at a higher risk to get very ill, and with the Delta variant and outbreaks in Moncton, it's just a little nerve-racking. So I'd prefer to just be as safe as possible for my staff and my clients."
Precision Pilates Fredericton is not the only business to offer service only to vaccinated customers.
The Sunbury-Oromocto Park & Campground states on its website that it requires proof of vaccination for those wishing to set up a tent on the grounds.
As well, some entertainment events are shifting to requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Fredericton's popular Harvest Musical Festival, for example, recently announced it will require all patrons, volunteers, staff and artists to be fully vaccinated to attend September performances at The Playhouse and Blues Tent.
What is a business owner allowed to do?
In an email statement to CBC News, the Department of Justice and Public Safety said "it's up to every owner and occupier of property to determine what COVID safety measures to require of the people they admit to their property."
There are caveats against discriminatory and other practices.
However, the department stated, "as long as they are complying with the law, for example avoiding discrimination under the Human Rights Act and taking required care with people's personal information, they are free to set and ensure compliance with the rules they choose."
For Hazelton, it's straightforward enough.
"I can ask anything I want of clients, but clients don't have to answer," she said. "If they answer they haven't been vaccinated, then we don't have to accept them as a client."
She said there is some public confusion about perceived discrimination versus a business having a rule.
"We have several rules for clients that come here. They have to wear clothing that doesn't have zippers or buttons, that's for their safety. They can't wear jewelry. We have some rules and now having a COVID-19 vaccine is one of those."
Proof-of-vaccination app on the horizon
During a media scrum on Wednesday, Premier Blaine Higgs confirmed that an app is in the works that would allow people to show an online immunization record that is currently accessible online at MyHealthNB.
"It'll take us probably four to five weeks, six weeks in order to have it fully able to look at MyHealth[NB] and then transfer that into an app and basically be able to confirm whether you're vaccinated or not," Higgs told reporters.
He also spoke about the proof-of-vaccination approaches other provinces are considering.
"It could come down to an order that would allow businesses to say ... 'you can only come in a public space like this if you're vaccinated,' which would give them the cover they need," he said.
"Quebec has suggested they may go that far."
Higgs noted he isn't ruling that out as a possibility here, but added "that isn't where we are right today."
Currently, Hazelton said, a client's word is not enough.
She and her staff request proof, such as a screenshot of the online record on MyHealthNB or a photograph of a paper immunization record.
"If they email it to us, we delete the email right away," Hazelton said. "We're accepting a photograph or whatever method they have, but we won't take their word. We do need to see it."
Whether it is between a business and customers or friends and family, the vaccination conversation has proven to be an especially contentious one.
Toronto-based pharmacologist Sabina Vohra-Miller, co-founded the page Unambiguous Science to combat vaccine misinformation. Vohra-Miller spoke to Information Morning Fredericton about vaccine hesitancy and the etiquette of asking about vaccination status.
"If you're going to get a service [and] you want to know if someone's vaccinated, you can absolutely ask them," said Vohra-Miller.
"They're not obligated to share that information with you, but you have absolutely the right to ask."
With files from Jacques Poitras, Information Morning Fredericton