Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Trudeau warns COVID-19 vaccine passports raise ‘questions of fairness’

He says they could unfairly impact people if used to decide who can go to a concert, dine at a restaurant

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed caution Friday over the use of “vaccine passports,” suggesting they could unfairly impact some people if used to decide who can go to a concert or dine at a restaurant.

While Trudeau acknowledged that proof of a COVID-19 inoculation would not be out of place for travellers who already face similar requirements for other vaccines when embarking on international jaunts, he said such a scheme for everyday activities in Canada raises “questions of equity.”

He said some Canadians cannot be vaccinated because of medical conditions, and noted people who are not prioritized for shots will have to wait much longer than others.

“These are things that we have to take into account so that yes, we’re looking to try and encourage everyone to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, but we’re not discriminating and bringing in unfairness in the process at the same time,” Trudeau said while announcing Pfizer vaccine deliveries will soon reach one million doses per week and extend into early May.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu noted discussions are underway with international partners about how vaccine passports could be used.

She said it’s important to make sure Canada is not left behind if the world makes this a new travel requirement.

But conversations around how passports could be used within Canada are a provincial matter, said Hajdu, noting provinces already oversee similar vaccination proofs required by some schools and certain health-care settings.

“Those are all largely provincial decisions and of course they’re very difficult ones,” she said.

“But certainly I know provinces and territories are deliberating about those kinds of decisions that are coming their way as more people become vaccinated.”

Quebec officials said last month that the province was studying the possibility of a vaccine passport, prompting government critics to urge a rigorous examination of the ethical consequences.

The notion is drawing more attention as countries increasingly look towards a post-COVID world.

Israel offers a “green pass” to vaccinated citizens and those who have recovered from COVID-19 so that they can resume activities otherwise prevented by pandemic precautions.

But that country is well ahead of Canada’s vaccination rollout with more than half the population covered by two doses.

In Canada, more than 2.7 million doses have been administered so far.

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said close to 600,000 doses were given out over the past week, the highest since the rollout began.

Trudeau said Pfizer’s updated delivery schedule was “going to make a big difference” in coming weeks, repeating a pledge to dramatically ramp up supply in the coming months.

He said Canada can expect to receive at least one million COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses per week from March 22 to May 10.

The influx is more than double the 444,600 doses expected next week and is on top of vaccine deliveries from Moderna, expected to bring 846,000 doses the week of March 22.

Over the past week there has been an average of more than 3,050 new COVID-19 cases and 31 deaths reported daily.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said more than 2,050 patients were treated in hospital each day, including about 540 in critical care.

She added there were now close to 3,000 variants of concern cases, with the B.1.1.7. variant accounting for more than 90 per cent.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province had reached a critical stage of the pandemic as a spike in cases forced officials to move one southwestern region into lockdown Monday.

The province said the Sarnia-Lambton region would have to abide by tighter restrictions while the Northwestern Health Unit will move into the second-strictest “red” category of a colour-coded pandemic framework.

In Saskatchewan, health officials encouraged older residents in Regina to stay home as variant cases jumped in the capital, days after the province eased a ban on household visits.

However, in Manitoba, the government announced people will be allowed to gather with friends on restaurant patios starting Saturday. The province is also going to allow household members who sit together in religious services to remove their masks, as long as they are distanced from others and are not singing.

Njoo touted the nation’s progress following a week of remembrance in which the world marked the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

But Njoo also warned that “racing towards the finish” could cost us hard-won successes.

Public opinion research published last month by the Public Policy Forum found mixed support for vaccine passports.

Research author Peter Loewen found just a slim majority of support in an online survey, and greater hesitancy over how such information would be recorded and verified.

Loewen noted appeal lies in offering increased safety for people accessing services, slower transmission of the virus and greater incentives for vaccination.

But he acknowledged questions of fairness, as well as hurdles to figuring out how to issue and verify passports.

In total, Canada has seen 899,757 cases of COVID-19, including 22,371 deaths and more than 30,670 active cases reported across the country.

Justin Trudeau

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

Just Posted

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

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

Most Read