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Fans attending Calgary Flames games at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary and all employees will need to be fully immunized against COVID-19.Derek Leung/Getty Images

The owners of the Calgary Flames hockey team and the Stampeders football club will require all employees and fans attending events at their facilities to be fully immunized against the coronavirus, making the group the first major organization in Alberta to mandate vaccines.

The policy puts Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. (CSEC) at odds with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. He does not support vaccine passports, except for those necessary to meet international travel requirements. In July, he said the province will not “facilitate” vaccine passports and would “discourage businesses” from asking people for their immunization status, which he believes would violate Alberta’s health-privacy laws.

But as the fourth wave gains momentum and vaccination rates plateau, provincial governments and major organizations are warming to stiff immunization policies. On Monday, British Columbia announced plans for a vaccine passport system for non-essential businesses and events, coming around Sept. 13. The country’s five largest banks said last week that employees working in their branches and offices must soon be fully vaccinated, with limited exceptions. The owners of the Ottawa Redblacks, which play in the CFL, on Monday said by mid-September, people attending ticketed events at the club’s stadium must be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test. The owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and other professional sports teams in that city have made similar rules. The Winnipeg Jets will also require shots.

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Jason Kenney says Alberta will not bring in COVID-19 vaccine passports

CSEC said in a statement Monday it is “targeting” Sept. 15 as the launch date for its vaccine mandate. The policy will apply to all employees, event staff, and fans eligible to receive the shot attending “live events” operated by CSEC at the Scotiabank Saddledome and McMahon Stadium, home to the Flames and Stampeders, respectively. A CSEC spokesperson noted that the company operates all live events at the Saddledome but is only responsible for the Stampeders games at McMahon Stadium. CSEC did not indicate whether it would demand proof of vaccine or accept a negative COVID-19 test in lieu.

“As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, CSEC believes this policy to be essential in delivering a safe environment for our fans and staff as well as an important measure to help our communities and businesses to continue reopening safely,” the ownership group said in a statement. CSEC said it would provide further details on the implementation of its policy in the coming weeks.

Alberta’s immunization rate lags the rest of Canada, and the province has the second-highest rate of active COVID-19 infections, behind the Northwest Territories. In Alberta, 68.8 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated while COVID-19 Tracker Canada, a volunteer project, calculates that 74.7 per cent of eligible people across the country have received two doses.

While CSEC is the first major Alberta company to take a stand in favour of vaccines, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce earlier this month urged the province to create a vaccine passport system in order to keep businesses open as COVID-19 cases climb. Some businesses are already taking action. Dickens, a pub and music venue in Calgary, said it has sold hundreds of tickets to an event Friday, when it will fully reopen. It will demand proof of vaccination, according to a statement Dickens released on social media.

“A lot of business owners are being forced from one seemingly impossible decision to another,” the statement said. “Nobody wants to have to make calls like this, but we are at a point with this whole thing where we need to find a way to move forward without an endless series of business closures and reopenings and it is my opinion that this is the only realistic path available to us now.”

Fleisch Delikatessen, a Edmonton eatery, earlier this month said dine-in service would be restricted to customers who are fully vaccinated.

CSEC’s announcement Monday was vague, but an internal document dated Aug. 20 said rising COVID-19 infections fuelled by the Delta variant, coupled with immunization requirements issued by the NHL and the WHL, influenced the organization’s decision. John Bean, CSEC’s chief executive, said in the memo the policy came after CSEC considered whether “sufficient alternate measures” would be enough to protect players, staff and fans. The note, obtained by The Globe and Mail, is addressed to employees, although a spokesman for CSEC would not confirm whether it was distributed to staff.

The policy will have a “significant logistical impact” on operations, Mr. Bean said. The document contained a link to a website where employees could enter their vaccination status, although it does not demand proof of vaccination. CSEC employees must submit their information by Sept. 8, according to the memo. “Your information will be kept confidential. Your proof of vaccine will not be added to your employee record,” the website says.

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