The Government of Canada has launched a COVID-19 proof of vaccination system that provides Canadians with a way to demonstrate that they are vaccinated against COVID-19 when travelling.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Thursday (Oct. 21) that Saskatchewan, Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and all three territories have put the national standard into use.
All provinces will be using the “pan-Canadian” system, however, Trudeau pointed out.
“I’m happy to confirm that all provinces and territories have confirmed that they will be moving forward with a standardized national proof of vaccination,” Trudeau said.
As outlined in this official backgrounder, the proof of vaccination will show one’s name, date of birth, and COVID-19 vaccine history — including which doses were injected and when.
It will also include a QR code that holds one’s vaccination history.
“You can download it into your phone, you can print it out, you can ask for a copy by mail if you don’t have those capacities, but you are now able to show proofs of vaccination immediately in all those provinces, and all other provinces have agreed and are working hard to come online,” Trudeau said on Thursday.
The only medical information shown is a person’s COVID-19 vaccination history.
“The proof, including the QR code, does not contain any additional medical or identity information,” reads a statement on the government’s website.
A “common look” across Canada
The Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination program was designed with a “common look” that features the Canada wordmark, Ottawa says.
“It will allow other countries and transportation providers, such as airlines and cruise ship operators, to recognize the proof as a trusted Canadian document regardless of the province or territory that issued it,” the government says.
The proof complies with the SMART Health Card standard, which is used and recognized “by many top travel destinations for Canadian travellers.”
“The Government of Canada is actively engaging international partners to seek recognition and acceptance of the Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination abroad,” reads a government statement.
“Your proof does not guarantee entry to another country,” the government notes. "Before you travel, you must check the rules of your destination country and the countries you transit through."
However, Trudeau said on Thursday that he is "very confident" that Canada's proof-of-vaccination certificate will be accepted by destinations worldwide.
Canadians will be able to use the new system both within Canada and for international travel.
For when returning to Canada, it will be verified once its uploaded into the ArriveCAN, an app and website for travellers to submit mandatory information when arriving in Canada from other countries.
It also is designed to prevent forgeries and damages by detecting any changes to the document after it has been issued.
Here’s an example of what it looks like, using the Yukon as a sample:
The government says the system offers “multiple benefits and uses,” which includes meeting Canada’s new traveller vaccine requirements.
Starting Oct. 30, 2021, all travellers 12 years of age and older departing from Canadian airports, and travellers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to travel. To allow travellers time to become fully vaccinated, there will be a short transition period where they will be able to travel if they show a valid COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of travel as an alternative to providing proof of full vaccination.
“If travellers have not already started the vaccination process, or do not start soon, they risk not qualifying for travel as of Nov. 30, 2021,” the government says.
Last week, Transport Canada confirmed with PAX that there will be no additional checks, beyond the requested 72-hour negative COVID-19 test, at airports related to showing proof of being "in the process" of being vaccinated, such as showing proof of a first dose or scheduled appointment for a second dose.
One extra step at check-in
Will it be up to federal authorities, or airline staff, to check each travellers certificate?
Trudeau said the government has “worked closely” with airlines to ensure that it is “as seamless and easy a process as possible.”
Air travellers will scan the QR code on their certificate at check-in and, in turn, receive a boarding pass that is “clearly marked upon it ‘vaccination approved,” Trudeau said.
“There is no actual slow down,” Trudeau said. “It’s a single extra step on check in, in a digital way.”
“It will not be an overly onerous for anyone in the process that, while they check the name and gate number, they will also see a green checkmark, or whatever it is, that ensures that they know the vaccination requirements have been met.”
Not available everywhere yet
Canada’s national proof of vaccination system is available in many provinces or territories, “but not all,” the government notes.
“If it’s not yet available to you, you can continue to use the proof of vaccination that’s available in your province or territory,” the government says on its website.
“Not every province has yet to deliver,” Trudeau said on Thursday. “I know they are all working very quickly and should have it resolved in the weeks to come, certainty in time for when people start to travel again as we ease off some of those travel restrictions and demand proof of vaccination for travelling.”
The announcement come as The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to advise travellers, regardless of their vaccination status, to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada and to avoid cruises.
Currently, more than 83 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Trudeau said.
This is a developing story.