Trudeau 'confident' other countries will accept Canadians' proof of vaccination
Ottawa says Canadians should use their provincial or territorial documentation to travel
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he's "very confident" countries around the world will accept Canadians' proof of vaccination.
Today, the federal government announced that Canadians will be able to use a standardized provincial or territorial proof-of-vaccination documentation to travel internationally — although it will be up to foreign governments to accept them or not.
Government officials, speaking on background during a briefing this morning, said they worked with the provinces to come up with a "pan Canadian" format and are confident it will be widely accepted.
They added the government is working with other countries to ensure acceptance abroad.
"We are very confident this proof-of-vaccination certificate that will be federally approved, issued by the provinces with the health information for Canadians, is going to be accepted at destinations worldwide," Trudeau told a news conference in Ottawa today.
The standardized COVID-19 proof of vaccination includes the holder's name and date of birth, the number of doses received, the type of vaccine, lot numbers, dates of vaccination and a QR code that includes the vaccination history. Canadians can also request the proof by mail.
The documentation was designed with what the government calls a "common look" featuring the Government of Canada logo and the Canadian flag.
The government said that as of today, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon are issuing the standardized proof of vaccination.
Trudeau said all the provinces and territories have agreed to issue the accepted credentials ahead of the holiday season.
"Not every province has yet delivered on that but I know they are all working very quickly and should resolve that in the weeks to come," he said.
In Ontario, for example, fully vaccinated residents can download a QR code built to the SMART Health Card standard, which includes the Government of Canada "wordmark" or logo.
WATCH | Canadians will be able to use their provincial vaccine certificates for international travel
The SMART Health Card standard is a set of guidelines, approved by the International Organization for Standardization and endorsed by Canada, to store health information and is used by a number of tech companies, including Apple.
The government said it's talking to other countries to encourage them to recognize those who have received mixed vaccine doses as being fully vaccinated.
"This includes sharing Canada's evidence and experience with mixed schedules of Health Canada-authorized vaccines for both AstraZeneca/mRNA and mixed mRNA doses," says a government release.
"Initial outreach has focused on the ongoing exchange of technical and scientific information to advance this time-sensitive work."
Proof can be used for domestic travel too
The standardized proof of vaccination can also be used when the requirement for proof of vaccination to travel domestically kicks in at the end of the month, although travellers can continue to use their old provincial proof of vaccination if their province is not yet issuing the standardized credentials.
As of Oct. 30, all travellers aged 12 and older taking flights leaving Canadian airports or travelling on Via Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains must be fully vaccinated before boarding. Marine passengers on non-essential passenger vessels like cruise ships must also complete the vaccination series before travelling.
Mike McNaney is president of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada's largest air carriers — including Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet. He said he welcomes the standardized approach and urged the government to ease off on other pandemic measures.
"With aviation becoming one of the only sectors requiring fully vaccinated employees and customers, it is imperative that the government work with us and determine what other travel measures can now be amended in keeping with global practices," he wrote in a media statement.
"Such as elimination of blanket advisories against travel, elimination of mandatory PCR testing pre-departure for fully vaccinated international travellers coming to Canada, and enabling children under 12 to be exempt from de facto home quarantine."
Officials said they considered other options, including federally issued credentials, but decided that would have "limited value" given that provinces and territories administered the shots and held the data.
They also said the global health travel advisories will soon adopt a destination-based approach, so that Canadians can better prepare travel plans.
Dispute over mandatory vaccine rule for MPs continues
Trudeau's announcement comes as a fight brews over making vaccination mandatory for MPs ahead of Parliament's return next month.
Earlier this week, the House of Commons' governing body introduced a new mandatory vaccination policy for MPs and anyone else entering the House of Commons.
Conservatives said they oppose the "secret" move by the Board of Internal Economy and object to the idea of more virtual sittings of the chamber.
"While we encourage everyone who can be vaccinated to get vaccinated, we cannot agree to seven MPs, meeting in secret, deciding which of the 338 MPs, just elected by Canadians, can enter the House of Commons to represent their constituents," said a statement from the party Wednesday.
WATCH| 'It's not too much to ask' — Trudeau discusses mandatory vaccination rule for MPs
While the Conservative Party says that it supports vaccination as the "most important tool to get us out of this pandemic," it did not require all of its candidates in the federal election to be fully vaccinated. It also didn't reveal how many of its candidates were vaccinated.
Both the Liberals and NDP required that their candidates be vaccinated during the election campaign, though they did not extend that requirement to staff members. The Bloc Québécois said during the campaign that all of its candidates were vaccinated. The Green Party told CBC that both of its MPs have been fully vaccinated.
"It is puzzling to me that there are people out there that think that just because they are members of Parliament they do not need to keep themselves, their loved ones or their constituents safe, when the vast majority of Canadians have done the right thing," Trudeau said Wednesday.
"It is on Mr. O'Toole to explain why he thinks people should not be fully vaccinated if they want to serve as members of Parliament, and why indeed he doesn't even think there should be a hybrid model so those who aren't fully vaccinated can still speak up for their constituents in the House of Commons."
With files from Philip Ling and J.P. Tasker