Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer

Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Rick Bowmer

In Canada, U.S., vaccine ‘passports’ could be new point of cross-border contention

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared receptive to the idea of vaccine-related travel documents

As if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t produced enough ways to complicate life at the border between Canada and the United States, here comes another: whether or not to require proof of vaccination.

Debate is heating up in the freedom-focused U.S. about whether retailers, businesses and employers can and should require customers, workers and visitors to prove they’ve had a vaccine.

The discussion is also happening in Canada, a country some observers say is more attuned to the collective good than many of those in the land of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Where the two meet up, potential snafus abound.

“Some of these discussions could be very challenging,” said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration.

“I don’t think that Canadians are going to look kindly on the idea that, you know, you could have significant numbers of people crossing the border that are unvaccinated.”

That could be part of the reason for the apparent difference of opinion that emerged Tuesday between Ottawa and the White House on the issue of requiring vaccine documentation.

“The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” press secretary Jen Psaki told the daily White House briefing.

The priority for the White House will be to protect the “privacy and rights” of U.S. residents “so that these systems are not used against people unfairly,” she said.

“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

Contrast that with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who — all the while couching his response in familiar too-soon caveats — appeared receptive to the idea of vaccine-related travel documents.

“We will continue to work with our partners in the United States and internationally to ensure that this is done properly,” Trudeau said in French about how best to reopen the Canada-U.S. border.

“We have already seen the importance of proof of vaccination for international travel … in a pre-pandemic period in recent years. It will surely be important, but the details of what we are going to do about it, we are still fine-tuning.”

A new online Léger poll, commissioned by Jedwab’s ACS and the Canadian Institute for Health Research at the University of Manitoba, suggests the idea is divisive on either side of the border.

Just over half of Canadian respondents, 52 per cent, said they support showing proof of vaccination to get into events or venues, compared with 43 per cent of their U.S. counterparts.

One-third of Canadians, or 33 per cent, said they opposed the idea, compared with 36 per cent of Americans who felt the same way. In the U.S., 21 per cent said they were undecided, compared with 15 per cent in Canada.

Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

READ MORE: CDC continues to warn U.S. travellers against ‘all travel to Canada’ due to COVID risk

Many Americans these days are predisposed to oppose anything they see as a threat to freedom, said Matthew Mitchell, a professor of international business and strategy at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

“I think with the rise of the don’t-tread-on-me ethos, especially within the last 10 years, any infringement on individual liberties is viewed with suspicion, is viewed with antagonism,” Mitchell said.

The country’s famous political polarization hasn’t helped.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who last month lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in his state, signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting the use of “vaccine passports” issued by the government.

“Don’t tread on our personal freedoms,” he tweeted.

The move follows a similar decision last week by another prominent Republican, lockdown opponent and outspoken Donald Trump ally, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy,” said the order signed by DeSantis.

What was initially a come-one, come-all approach to vaccines in Florida — later tempered to require at least some proof of temporary residency — has been attracting older visitors from Canada for months.

Interest has spiked again as Canadians confront a four-month wait between doses of the vaccine, a delay travel insurance specialist Martin Firestone said many of his clients simply aren’t willing to endure.

“All of a sudden, a new spate of calls from people saying, ‘This is crazy,’” Firestone said — in many cases, from clients who have already had their initial shot.

Once they’re immunized, they’re learning that getting the vaccine doesn’t afford them any latitude in Canada, whether it’s from insurance companies or the federal quarantine requirements for travellers.

“At this point, government and insurance companies are not recognizing at all that you’ve had any vaccine, and don’t care to see any proof of it,” Firestone said.

“Canada is just a basically turning a blind eye … and you’re not getting any credit, if that’s a good word, for having both vaccines.”

Fully vaccinated travellers do not have to be tested before leaving the U.S. unless a test is required at the destination, and self-quarantine upon returning home is also not required, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says.

U.S. citizens, including those who are fully vaccinated, do require a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before boarding a flight home.

“What will happen in the future?” asked Firestone. “That’s a great question — that will be the precursor to the vaccine passport, that we need to see proof that you’ve had the vaccine.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirusUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The city has decided to apply to have the Jordan River area withdrawn from Crown Land disposition, which would put the decision on how the land is used and protected in the hands of the city. (File photo)
City of Revelstoke applying to withdraw Jordan River from Crown Land

At the moment the province has control over what is developed in the area

(Natalia Cuevas-Huaico - Kelowna Capital News)
Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

A member of the Oliver Fire Department works on the wildfire near the Cottages at Osoyoos Lake on Tuesday night. The fire is believed to have been caused by a human. (Oliver Fire Department Facebook)
UPDATE: Osoyoos wildfire believed to be human-caused

The Oliver Fire department also responded to another fire along the hike and bike trail on Saturday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

desert hills estate winery grapes
Osoyoos winery back in business after clean bill of health

Desert Hills chose to temporarily close after a close contact tested positive for COVID

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

Hikers are still able to climb to the top of Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland, but the paved road to the upper parking lot will be closed from 7 a.m. to noon and all day on Sundays. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland park partially closed to vehicle traffic

Giant’s Head Mountain Park gates will be closed to cars until noon

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Most Read