Ontario Implements a Vaccine Passport for Certain Settings

On August 21, 2021, the Ontario government announced that proof of full COVID-19 vaccination will be required to access certain businesses and settings, effective September 22, 2021. This new requirement comes in the wake of a spike in new cases driven by the Delta variant of COVID-19.

Starting on September 22, 2021, Ontarians will need to produce proof of full vaccination as well as government issued photo ID (such as a driver's licence or health card) in order to access the following establishments:

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery, and takeout);
  • Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
  • Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
  • Gyms, fitness, and recreational facilities (excluding youth recreational facilities);
  • Sporting events;
  • Casinos, bingo halls, and gaming establishments;
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres, and cinemas,
  • Strip clubs, bathhouses, and sex clubs; and
  • Racing venues (e.g. horse racing).

To qualify as fully vaccinated, Ontarians must have received the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine or combination of COVID-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, plus have waited 14 days from the last dose. Currently, proof of vaccination can be obtained in PDF or paper format from the COVID-19 vaccination portal. The Ontario government has indicated that it intends to have digital vaccine certificate and verification apps available to the public and businesses beginning on October 22, 2021.

The Ontario government has advised that neither proof of a negative COVID-19 test, nor proof of previous COVID-19 infection, will be accepted as a substitute to vaccination. The only exception is for individuals attending wedding or funeral receptions between September 22 and October 12, 2021, where proof of a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test from no less than 48 hours before the event will be accepted as an alternative to proof of vaccination.


Exceptions:

Proof of vaccination will not be required for outdoor settings, other than the outdoor areas of nightclubs, nor will it be required for settings such as medical facilities, grocery stores, and medical supply stores. At this point in time, it also appears that proof of vaccination will not be required to access other non-essential indoor settings, such as retail stores, salons, or places of worship.

Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to a medical exemption will be permitted to enter the affected settings with a doctor's note. Currently, however, no other exemptions have been announced for other human rights protected grounds, such as creed or religion.

Children under the age of 11 are also exempt from the vaccine requirement.

Notably, it also appears that the vaccine requirement will not apply to employees who work in the affected settings. Rather, it has been left to employers to determine a vaccine policy appropriate for their workplace. For more information on COVID-19 vaccination policies, please refer to our recent blog posts: The Ongoing Saga on COVID-19 Vaccination Policies and Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies update as of August 2021.


Takeaways:

The Ontario government's adoption of a COVID-19 "passport" aligns with recent actions taken by the provincial governments in Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia to introduce vaccine requirements for certain establishments.

With new COVID-19 developments on a nearly daily basis, employers and employees alike are encouraged to keep a close watch for requirements that may impact their workplace. Lee Workplace Law would be happy to answer any workplace COVID-19 questions you may have.