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A look at Quebec's vaccine-passport system expected as of September

Quebec has announced its intention to impose a vaccine-passport system beginning in September that would require people to prove they are vaccinated to access non-essential businesses — such as bars and gyms — in parts of the province where COVID-19 transmission is high.

Here's a brief look at the details unveiled by the province so far and what other provinces are doing.

When will it come into effect and when will it be used?

The target date for its implementation is Sept.1, giving those who are 12 and older enough time to get both doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Quebec has already been offering people a QR code as proof of vaccination. The government says the passport system will be used when the epidemiological situation warrants it. The province hopes to use the passports instead of having to issue lockdowns.

Who will be subject to it and what non-essential activities are being targeted?

The government says the passports will be imposed on Quebec residents and visitors and will apply to non-essential services and businesses. Health Minister Christian Dubé has discussed using them for "high-risk" places such as gyms, restaurants and bars. He has also said the passports could be used for what he called lower-risk activities that attract big crowds such as festivals and sporting events.

What else will the vaccination passport be useful for?

The Health Department has said the vaccination passport will allow people to avoid isolating for 14 days after contact with a positive case or having to leave work or school in the event of an outbreak. Passport holders will no longer be subject to distancing rules or mask-wearing orders in private homes. Those adequately vaccinated will also be able to travel to multiple countries and be exempt from the 14-day quarantine upon return.

What is happening elsewhere in the country?

For now, Quebec is leading the way on vaccine passports. 

In Manitoba, authorities have been issuing a proof-of-immunization card to residents who are two weeks removed from their booster shot. The card allows residents to avoid isolating for 14 days upon returning from travel within Canada and if they are a close contact of a positive case. Card holders have more visitation rights at hospitals and long-term care homes. The province has left open the possibility of using the cards to grant access to major sporting events, museums and other facilities.

In Ontario, the provincial government says it is focused on getting residents vaccinated and isn't envisioning a passport plan, leaving that instead for the federal government to manage.

In British Columbia, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she doesn't support the idea of vaccine passports, raising concerns it could lead to inequities that have been highlighted during the pandemic. Alberta and Saskatchewan have said they won't be using a passport.

In Atlantic Canada, provincial authorities haven't discussed passports like the one Quebec is proposing. The four Atlantic provinces, however, all require proof of vaccination for travellers from outside the region to avoid having to self-isolate upon entry.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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