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Digital vaccine passports raise concerns as Canada-U.S. border announcement looms

Last Updated Jun 16, 2021 at 9:18 am EDT

Canadians can expect information within days on how the federal government intends to re-open the Canadian border to international travel. Unsplash

The Canadian Snowbird Association says many of its members travel without mobile devices

Digital vaccine passport would be problematic for many Canadians, argues advocacy group

Feds say they're working with provinces, territories to create some kind of proof of vaccination system for travel

Some people are issuing a warning over digital vaccine passports, arguing they’ll leave a large chunk of Canadians scrambling if they’re implemented.

With details about when the Canada-U.S. border will reopen expected in the coming days, many are eager to hear whether they’ll have to prove they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and if so, how.

With the agreement between both countries set to expire on June 21, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic Leblanc said Tuesday the federal government was in talks with provinces and territories about creating some type of “passport” containing proof of vaccination, noting such a thing would likely be digital.

However, Evan Rachkovsky with the Canadian Snowbird Association says of its 115,000 members, about 10 per cent travel without mobile devices.

“I do believe that some sort of vaccine passport or some proof of vaccination status will be inevitable,” he said. “There are people that are going to be travelling that won’t have those means to quickly show vaccination proof through a smartphone.”

He believes travellers should be given the choice between an electronic copy and a paper copy.

“I mean, as long as, obviously, they have ways to root out fraud and things of that nature,” Rachkovsky added.

Most non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border has been limited since March of last year, when COVID-19 was spreading rapidly. Travel measures have been extended on a monthly basis since that time.

However, as both countries get more of a handle on the coronavirus, many are itching to get back to travel.

“The urgency of coming up with a secure, reliable, probably digital proof of vaccination is something that we’re working on collaboratively with provinces and there may have to be a transitional measure — for example — if there’s a phased adjustment of border measures in July or later in August,” LeBlanc said Tuesday.

He added that while health information falls under provincial jurisdiction, Ottawa aims to provide Canadians with a document to verify vaccinations against the virus if they want to travel outside Canada.

Federal officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have said the land border reopening would be a gradual process, with first access likely to go to those who’ve received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine.

-With files from 680 NEWS and Cormac Mac Sweeney