First phase of vaccine certification going live in July for travellers entering Canada

As the travel industry pushes the government to ease travel restrictions, the federal government plans to roll out the first phase of its vaccine certification program for travellers entering the country starting early next month, CBC News has confirmed.

Update to app paves the way for government to start easing travel restrictions in stages

Several federal government departments are working on two phases of vaccine certification for international travellers, indicating that some restrictions could start to ease soon. (David Kawai/The Canadian Press)

As the travel industry pushes the government to ease travel restrictions, the federal government plans to roll out next month the first phase of its vaccine certification program for travellers entering the country, CBC News has confirmed.

Starting in early July, a new feature on the ArriveCan app will go live, according to a federal government source with direct knowledge.

The app will allow travellers to take a photo or upload a snapshot of their vaccine documentation into the app before going through customs, the source said. CBC is not identifying the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter

The information stays in the app and isn't transferred elsewhere — an effort to address privacy concerns.

The update to the app paves the way for the government to start easing restrictions on international travel in stages. Earlier this month, the federal government said fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents crossing the border into Canada will soon no longer be required to stay at a hotel for part of their quarantine period.

The prime minister met with premiers from across the country Thursday evening. Most of the discussion focused on the next steps to re-open the border, according to a senior government source. The talk was constructive and all the premiers agreed that being fully vaccinated was the key, the source said.

In the spring, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters that the topic of vaccine certification had come up in a meeting between G7 health ministers. Since then, discussions with allies have continued on the idea of a passport or certification that would allow citizens of one country to prove to border officials in another country that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus.

Buy-in from provinces needed

Several government departments are also working on the second phase of proof-of-vaccination documentation, the source said. That digital project will employ the same technology used for Canada's e-passports, the source said.

The Toronto Star reported Thursday that this phase — which would allow Canadians to digitally verify their vaccination status with the federal government — won't be ready until the fall and will only accept proof of vaccination with one of Canada's four accredited vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson.

According to the source, the second phase of the vaccination certificate project depends on buy-in from the provinces and territories. The federal government would need permission to connect with each jurisdiction's database to track who has received first and second doses.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada and Public Safety Canada are all working on the project.


Ashley Burke

Senior reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She was recognized with the Charles Lynch Award and was a finalist for the Michener Award for her exclusive reporting on the toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. She has also uncovered allegations of sexual misconduct involving senior leaders in the Canadian military. You can reach her confidentially by email: ashley.burke@cbc.ca

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