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 West Kelowna Warriors beat the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in BCHL action Friday, April 16, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
West Kelowna goaltender stymies Vernon Vipers for 3-2 win

The Warriors were outshot 44-23 Friday night, but it didn’t bother Johnny Derrick

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Ben Klick is a country music singer living in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Kelowna’s Ben Klick partnering with local country music stations for annual virtual music festival fundraiser

The third annual Music Fest MS will come in the form of a Youtube livestream on May 30

The seventh annual Interior Savings Unplug and Play Family Literacy Week is scheduled for April 18 to 24. (File photo)
Annual Unplug and Play Week scheduled for April 18 to 24

Activities include making craft bags, neighbourhood hidden gems bingo, a scavenger hunt and more

A West Kelowna home was damaged in a fire that occurred overnight on Saturday, April 17. (Photo courtesy of West Kelowna Fire Rescue)
West Kelowna home damaged in overnight fire

The cause of the fire is undetermined and has been deemed unsuspicious

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Most Read