CityNews investigation: Restaurants, schools not enforcing COVID-19 proof of vaccination regularly

A CityNews investigation uncovers how some Toronto restaurants aren't enforcing the province's proof of vaccination rules. Adrian Ghobrial with why the lack of compliance could be leading to more COVID-19 cases across Ontario.

By Adrian Ghobrial

Over the course of the week, CityNews has been investigating whether or not some Toronto restaurants are enforcing Ontario’s proof of vaccination system. That means showing your ID, along with having your QR code scanned, and approved.

It turns out, not everyone is following the rules. One of Ontario’s top doctors believes that’s driving COVID-19 case counts higher.

“We continue to see outbreaks — in particular banquet halls and nightclubs — many of these have been linked to non-complacence with COVID precautions, notably screening, masking and vaccine certificate regulations,” says Peel Region’s medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh.

This week, CityNews visited downtown restaurants at random. From large chains to small independent eateries. Multiple restaurants along Dundas Street West either allowed us in without checking our vaccine certificate or didn’t scan our QR code or ask for a government ID. These steps are required under the provincial government’s regulations.

During one visit to Joey’s, located at the Eaton Centre, we were asked to share our information for contact tracing — as well as our COVID-19 vaccine certificate but weren’t asked to show ID, and the QR code wasn’t scanned. During a separate visit to the downtown restaurant, we were told not to bother showing our certificate because they “trusted us.”

In a statement to CityNews, a spokesperson for Joey restaurants says “We take all matters of public health very seriously and will be conducting our own investigation.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory shared his thoughts on Wednesday.

“They have the responsibility to ask for both the proof of vaccination and ID to make sure its the same person,” he said.

Toronto’s bylaw department confirms the city has received more than 1,000 complaints about vaccine certificate requirements, inspecting more than 1,200 businesses. To date, they’ve handed out five warnings and issued zero tickets.

“No charges have been issued to operators regarding proof of vaccination requirements,” the city said in a statement.

It’s a similar story just east of Toronto in Durham Region and to the north in York Region, where zero tickets have been issued.

York Region sends out a number of notifications to food establishments to provide education; we are committed to working with businesses to support them in implementing requirements,” said Patrick Casey, Director of Corporate Communications for York Region.

It’s not just restaurants and indoor food establishments having trouble following the mandate. CityNews has learned that staff at Ryerson’s Mattamy Arena — while asking individuals to present government-issued IDs and vaccine certificates — are failing to scan the QR code to confirm its authenticity.

The university did not directly answer a request for comment as to why this was happening. This prompted Ontario’s top doctor, chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore, to issue this warning while speaking with CityNews.

“The provincial offence officers that are enabled under the reopening of Ontario act to enforce compliance will be out not just educating [the public], but also enforcing [the mandate],” Moore said.

CityNews has also confirmed that some people are forging the older version of Ontario’s vaccine certificates to enter Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors games. Dr. Moore confirms with CityNews if he sees more evidence of proof of vaccine and or certificate fraud, he’ll recommend to the government that they move to a provincewide, QR-code-only system.

In a statement to CityNews, Ryerson University’s Athletics and Recreation department says the Toronto school has “implemented stringent health and safety protocols in compliance with, or exceeding, all provincial and municipal requirements.”

“This includes health and vaccine screening and contact tracing for every visitor/participant/spectator entering the Mattamy Athletic Centre,” they said. “With respect to vaccination requirements for general fitness centre use, rental bookings or Rams game day events, there are two distinct processes in place: one for Ryerson-affiliated users (students, staff and faculty) and another for members of the broader community.”

In their statement, Ryerson University explained that “broader community members” without a Ryerson login are required to show a photo ID and proof of vaccination to gain entry.

“Whether it’s via the ‘enhanced’ Verify Ontario app and QR code method or the ‘original’ vaccine receipt method, as outlined in the province’s requirements,” the university said. “Broader community members are also required to complete a health screening prior to entry.”

With files from Lucas Casaletto of CityNews

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