Ontario’s vaccine certificate system: What to know and what it will look like

By Richard Southern and Lucas Casaletto

The Ford government is releasing new guidance for its proof of vaccination system, which comes into effect next week.

As of September 22nd, Ontarians will be required to verify and demonstrate that they’re fully vaccinated to enter a number of businesses, including but not limited to indoor restaurants, nightclubs (outdoor and indoor), movie theatres, gyms and concert venues.

The vaccine certificate system does not apply to essential activities such as grocery shopping and accessing medical care and or services.

In advance of Sept. 22, the government says all Ontarians can print or download their vaccination receipt from the provincial booking portal.

Proof of vaccination guidance: 

The government does not require proof of vaccination for outdoor bars and restaurants but will seek official documentation for indoor settings. This exemption would allow those dining at a patio who are unvaccinated to enter the business to use the washroom facilities.

The Ford government also revealed certain exemptions where an individual will not need proof of vaccination. This includes patrons entering an indoor business to pay for an order or to make a retail purchase.

As of Sept. 22, those attending a wedding or funeral service are not mandated to show proof of vaccination, but after October 12th, if you’re attending an associated social gathering following a wedding or a funeral, the government says you will need to prove that you’re fully vaccinated.

Children under 12 are exempt from providing proof of vaccination.

Ontarians will need to provide proof of being fully vaccinated, starting Sept. 22, to access the following: (not including those with medical exemptions and children under 12)

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


The Ford government also clarified what proof of vaccination should look like.

Starting Sept. 22, Ontarians will need to show their vaccine receipt proving they have been double dosed, along with government identification. Government ID can include a birth certificate, citizenship card, driver’s license, Ontario health card, indigenous membership card, passport, or permanent residence card.

What proof of vaccination looks like: 

On Oct. 22, the province aims to launch a QR code and verification app for businesses to streamline the process. The government says it’s still targeting that date and confirmed it has a working prototype. Officials confirmed recently it’s building the app in-house instead of bringing in existing technology from another province like Quebec, which already has a QR code read in use.

The Ford government says it’s up to businesses to ensure they properly meet requirements for proof of vaccination, adding that in the case of harassment, institutions are asked to contact local law enforcement.

Non-compliance by businesses and specific individuals can result in charges and fines under Ontario’s Reopening Act.

The government says provincial offence officers, including bylaw officers, police officers, public health inspectors and regulatory officers from ministries, can enforce proof of vaccination requirements.

It would appear the province’s vaccine certificate system has encouraged those without protection to go out and get the first shot.

The government says in the first seven days following the Sept. 1st announcement on vaccine certificates, roughly 103,000 first doses were administered. This is compared to approximately 78,000 doses seven days preceding the announcement.

Ontario says 84 per cent of those aged 12-and-up have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 78 per cent fully immunized against the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott says 452 of Ontario’s 577 new cases of COVID-19 today are in people who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.

Province and citywide anti-vaccine protests have been held in recent days and weeks following the government’s announcement on vaccine passports. On Monday, hundreds gathered outside Toronto General Hospital opposing proof of vaccination. Toronto frontline workers and first responders also protested against the vaccine mandate, holding a silent rally outside Queen’s Park.

The demonstrations have drawn the ire and consternation of politicians and healthcare workers, who say they should be treated with respect.

“These protests should not be happening here,” ER Doctor Raghu Venugopal told 680 NEWS on Monday. “All of the people that work behind me in this hospital do not pass laws. Laws are passed at Queen’s Park. Not at this hospital.”

An organization calling itself Canadian Frontline Nurses posted notices of “silent vigils” held in all ten provinces, saying they’re meant to critique public health measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

With files from The Canadian Press

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