October 16, 2021

-Global News

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says he’s ‘very confident’ that Canadians will have a national vaccine passport in place by the time the U.S. border reopens for non-essential travel on Nov. 8.

While Blair said he always tries to “overperform and under-promise,” he noted that work on the federal proof of COVID-19 vaccination system has been progressing “very, very well.”

“I’m very confident…that we will have in place, for a number of Canadian travellers, that certificate by that date,” he said, responding to The West Block guest host Abigail Bimman’s question about whether the passport will be available by the newly-set reopening date.

The White House confirmed on Friday that on Nov. 8, non-essential travellers crossing land borders from Canada or Mexico will be asked about their vaccination status. Only those who are fully vaccinated will be allowed through, and proof of vaccination will be required if selected for random screening.

The announcement prompted questions from Canadians about when they might expect the federal government’s promised nationwide vaccine certificate.

Speaking to Bimman in the interview, Blair acknowledged there are “still some other contingencies that need to be addressed,” but added that everyone involved in building the federal vaccine passport system recognizes the “importance” of getting it up and running.

“There’s still some work that’s being done with our provincial partners, where the data is actually resident, and to make sure that that’s available to Canadians right across the country,” he said, “but some real progress has been made.”

“I’m very confident that in the coming weeks, we will be introducing those certificates.”

The government had previously said the certification would be ready to go “early this fall.” While the season started weeks ago, the weeks ahead are when proof of vaccination is promising to become an increasingly present part of Canadians’ daily lives.

The federal government’s vaccine mandate for federally-regulated workers is coming into effect at the end of the month, with disciplinary action expected for unvaccinated workers by mid-November. Canadians will also soon be required to show proof of vaccination to board trains or planes across the country.

On top of that, many provinces and territories have already started rolling out proof of vaccination requirements for non-essential activities, like going to a bar, dining indoors or working out at a gym. However, each province has been responsible for implementing its own system — resulting in a patchwork of different vaccine certificates across Canada.

And while the federal vaccine passport is being crafted with international travel in mind, the federal government has previously said they’d be happy to work with the provinces to use it as a domestic proof-of-vaccination tool, too, he added.

“If the provinces wish to work with us in order to use our federal credentials within their province, we would be happy to work with them,” Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said while announcing the federal vaccine passport back in August.

There will be some exemptions to the vaccine passport rules, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned that those exemptions will be “extremely narrow.”

“If you’ve done the right thing and gotten vaccinated you deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID, to have your kids safe from COVID, to get back to the things you love,” Trudeau said, speaking last week.

“If you haven’t gotten your shots yet but want to travel this winter, let’s be clear. There will only be a few extremely narrow exceptions like a valid medical condition. For the vast majority of people the rules are very simple. To travel you’ve got to be vaccinated.”