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Saturday,  May 18, 2024 6:42 PM 

“Early this fall”: Feds announce vaccine credential program for foreign travel

“Early this fall”: Feds announce vaccine credential program for foreign travel
Minister of intergovernmental affairs Dominic LeBlanc on Aug. 11, 2021. (CPAC)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino says fully vaccinated Canadians will soon be able to obtain a vaccine certificate, authorized by the Canadian government, for the purpose of resuming international travel.

Speaking to media on Wednesday (Aug. 11), Mendicino said Ottawa is “actively working” with the provinces and territories on securing a document that will provide “pan-Canadian” proof of vaccination for when travelling out of country.

“These credentials will have a common design across all provinces,” Minister Mendicino said, noting how the documents will include the holder’s COVID-19 vaccination history, including vaccine types, date and location.

The credentials will be available to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents if they are fully vaccinated according to standards set by public health, he said.

"What we’re announcing today is the next tangible, concrete phase of a plan that has already been put in place through the ArriveCAN app," Mendicino said. 

Travellers entering Canada, currently, are required to input a quarantine plan, a self-assessment of their health and upload images of their vaccination receipts into the ArriveCAN app – software launched last year – prior to boarding their flight. 

The ArriveCAN app helps inform inbound international travel decisions, Minister Mendicino said, and the hope is that elements of that technology can be "integrated and woven into" the new program. 

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino (top, left); Transport Minister Omar Alghabra (top, right); Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc (bottom)

"For Canadians who decide to travel, using a proof of vaccination will provide foreign border officials with the vaccination history needed to assess whether a traveller meets their public health requirements and provide a trusted and verifiable credential for when they return home," the Government of Canada stated in a release later on. 

An official date for launching the new platform wasn’t announced. 

However: Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc said Canadians can expect to see something “early this fall.”

A "complex undertaking"

LeBlanc called the task a “complex undertaking” as it involves the Canadian government working with each province and territory, each of which are “holders of the data” that indicates who has been immunized.

The conversations are “ongoing” and “collaborative,” LeBlanc said, adding how the credentials will be made available in both digital and paper formats. 

“We think this credential…is yet another reason for Canadians to see the benefit of being fully vaccinated and therefore safely resume international travel,” Minister LeBlanc said.

The Minister didn’t suggest that the system would be used on a domestic level, noting how some provinces, such as Quebec, are introducing a QR code system for showing proof of vaccination for entry into some public venues.

“Quebec's action is very positive and encouraging,” Minister LeBlanc said, speaking in French. 

The Minister couldn’t say if Canada’s national proof of vaccination tool will use a QR code system.

“It remains to be seen,” LeBlanc said. 

Adding to what the program might look like, Minister Mendicino said it will be digital, "involve a code," and it will be standardized so when Canadians are travelling abroad, there will be a "hallmark that readily identifies" that they are from Canada.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino on Aug. 11, 2021. (CPAC)

The platform will be "reliable, standardized and accessible," Mendicino said, adding that the technology will "safeguard everyone’s privacy."

In a statement on Wednesday, the Government of Canada noted how there is "no international consensus" on an acceptable proof of vaccination, "but we are working with international partners to recognize proof of vaccination credentials issued in Canada."

Canadians who do not have a proof of vaccination can travel outside the country, but they may have to quarantine or meet other requirements in destination, the government added.  

"And they will be subject to mandatory quarantine and testing upon return to Canada." 

This is a developing story.

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