After months of lockdowns and restrictions, the vast majority of Canada’s small businesses are finally open to the public once again. This is good news, and we are working hard to ensure governments create “Stay Open” strategies to face any further waves or variants without resorting to lockdowns or capacity restrictions on businesses.
Governments are considering vaccine passports/credentials
One strategy being discussed across the country is vaccine “passports,” or credentials.
- Ontario will begin requiring proof of vaccination at certain businesses on September 22. This includes indoor dining, nightclubs, sporting events, gyms, meeting spaces and casinos. See the full list of affected businesses.
- Quebec has implemented a vaccination passport as of September 1. It is applied in bars, restaurants, and gyms, as well as in festivals and high activity indoor venues, but it is not required in retail stores.
- Manitoba has already issued an immunization card which businesses are to use to allow fully vaccinated people to visit select indoor arts and recreation venues like concert halls and casinos, or participate in large outdoor events.
- British Columbia will require proof of vaccination for certain indoor activities and businesses, including concerts, sporting events, dining, gyms, workshops, and weddings. Starting September 13, individuals must be vaccinated with at least one dose to access these events, services, and businesses. By October 24, individuals must be fully vaccinated with two doses.
- Nova Scotia will require proof of vaccination, starting October 4, for those 12 and over who wish to participate in non-essential activities, such as going to restaurants, bars, concerts, and fitness facilities.
- Newfoundland and Labrador announced on September 7 that a vaccination passport will be implemented in the coming few weeks based on the Quebec system. Further details are not yet available.
- Alberta announced that from September 20 onwards, certain businesses and events must either implement the Restrictions Exemption Program - which requires proof of vaccination or a negative test result plus mandatory masking - to continue operation as usual, or comply with the latest public health restrictions.
- Saskatchewan announced that proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test will be required to access some businesses, establishments, and event venues in the province as of October 1.
- New Brunswick will implement a proof of vaccination program beginning September 22. Those 12 and over will be required to show proof of vaccination when accessing certain businesses, services, and events, such as indoor and outdoor dining, movie theatres, nightclubs, group exercise facilities, and more.
- Prince Edward Island announced that the government hopes to implement a proof of vaccination program sometime in October. Further details are not yet available.
While some business owners may welcome the use of a vaccine credential with employees and/or customers as an alternative to lockdowns, CFIB has several significant concerns and wants you to understand the risks. There are serious privacy and human rights considerations involved, and a business could face an expensive legal process just as they are getting on their on their feet. We are also concerned about the ability of small businesses to effectively implement a process to check credentials. For example, asking a young retail clerk or restaurant host to ask about someone’s health records would put them in an incredibly delicate position.
Can a business require employees or customers to get vaccinated?
CFIB has worked with a law firm to create a vaccine policy template that can help business owners talk about vaccines with their employees. We do not recommend business owners impose a requirement that employees or its customers be vaccinated.
We are starting to see governments mandate vaccines for certain sectors. However, these announcements do not change the legal risks for small businesses, who should still tread carefully if considering requiring staff or customers to be vaccinated.
CFIB is on the board of the POST Promise (People Outside Safely Together), which urges businesses to take a pledge to do five things to protect employees and staff from COVID. We prefer voluntary actions like POST over mandatory approaches.