National overview • Federal government, business and postsecondary education
Governments and businesses are embracing vaccine mandates as communities try to keep COVID-19 under control. But across the country, Canadians are facing a patchwork of vaccination rules. Postsecondary institutions are similarly divided on vaccine mandates: Some require everyone visiting campuses to be fully vaccinated, and others allow unvaccinated visitors to undergo regular testing. In Corporate Canada, dozens of banks, airlines, long-term care operators and other businesses have unveiled their own vaccine requirements.
Here’s what you need to know about the vaccine rules that are taking shape across Canada. In this section we’ll deal with the federal government, business and education on a national scale; later sections will address what each province and territory is up to.
What Ottawa is doing
- Public sector: Starting Oct. 29, proof of vaccination will be mandatory for federal public servants and workers in federally regulated industries, such as banking. Anyone without such proof, or an exemption on medical or religious grounds, will be put on unpaid leave.
- Domestic transport: Those travelling on cruise ships and interprovincial VIA Rail trains will have to give either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test starting Oct. 30; on Nov. 30, the testing option gets withdrawn, and only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to travel.
- International transport: Travellers, including Canadian citizens and permanent residents, are able to avoid a two-week quarantine if they show proof that they are fully vaccinated – though vaccinated travellers still need to show a negative molecular COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before departing for Canada.
What universities are doing
- Alberta: Nine postsecondary institutions have a joint plan to require all visitors to campus, including faculty and students, to be vaccinated. The schools said they would not allow unvaccinated visitors to undergo rapid testing instead unless they had a valid reason. The schools are: University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, MacEwan University, Medicine Hat College, Mount Royal University, NAIT, SAIT, and NorQuest College.
- B.C.: Five universities have stopped short of making vaccinations mandatory, but are requiring unvaccinated students, staff and visitors to undergo regular testing. The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, Thompson Rivers University and Emily Carr University have all said they will require everyone visiting their campuses to disclose whether they have been vaccinated.
- Ontario: Universities requiring all visitors to campus be vaccinated, with limited medical exemptions, and no testing alternative for unvaccinated staff, students or faculty, include the following: the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, Carleton University and McMaster University.
What businesses are doing
- Long-term care: Five major long-term care operators announced a vaccine mandate for all staff. Those workers who refuse to get the vaccine by Oct. 12 will be placed on unpaid leave. The group consists of Chartwell Retirement Residences, Extendicare, Responsive Group Inc., Revera Inc., and Sienna Senior Living.
- Transport: Air Canada and WestJet have said employees will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 30. The airlines won’t allow employees to undergo rapid testing instead, and both have warned that workers without a valid reason to refuse the vaccine could be fired. Porter Airlines is allowing employees to present a negative COVID-19 test in lieu of vaccination. Canadian National Railway said it will require all workers to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1.
- Telecom: Rogers Communications said it will require employees either to be fully vaccinated or submit to regular testing. Employees will have to fill out a mandatory questionnaire.
- Banks: Canada’s five biggest banks will require vaccination for in-person work in corporate offices and retail branches starting Nov. 1. Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Nova Scotia have said employees will need to be vaccinated to return to in-person work. Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal have said they will allow unvaccinated employees to undergo rapid testing and other safety measures instead. TD told employees in an internal memo that all staff will have to upload their vaccination status to an internal registry by Oct. 1.
- Insurance: Both Canada Life and Sun Life Financial have mandated vaccines for staff who are returning to the office.
- Accounting: Three major accounting firms in Canada said they will require workers to be fully vaccinated to return to their Canadian offices: Ernst & Young LLP, KPMG LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
- Law: Nine corporate law firms told The Globe and Mail they plan to require employees to be vaccinated before they return to work, although some allow workers to provide medical exemptions. The firms are Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP; Wildeboer Dellelce LLP; Fasken, McMillan LLP; Gowling WLG Canada; Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP; Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP; McCarthy Tétrault LLP; and Lenczner. Some law firms said they would allow unvaccinated employees to provide valid medical exemptions instead.
Rules by province and territory
Newfoundland and Labrador
Most of Newfoundland and Labrador is at Level 2 of its five-level restrictions regime, which allows gyms to open and 50-per-cent capacity at dine-in restaurants. Its restart plan, Together Again, currently allows non-essential travel from the rest of Canada, but the process is different depending on the travellers’ vaccination status.
- Passport: Premier Andrew Furey said in early September that the province plans to introduce a vaccine passport “within the coming weeks to a month,” modelled off the system in Quebec. But Health Minister John Haggie told reporters the passport would not be mandatory, unless conditions changed in the province.
- Public sector: The government and unions are working on a vaccine mandate but details have yet to be announced.
- Gatherings: Informal gatherings can be as big as the space allows with physical distancing of two metres. Formal gatherings can go up to 500 indoors and outdoors with physical distancing.
- Interprovincial travel: New arrivals from other provinces have to submit a travel form in advance. If they’re fully or partly vaccinated, they don’t have to self-isolate on arrival; unvaccinated travellers get tested on the seventh, eighth or ninth day of self-isolation and must stay in isolation until they get a negative result.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is moving through its Moving Forward plan, which still involves some physical distancing but allows more freedom to travel to the province, especially for people who’ve had their shots.
- Passport: The Vax Pass system, introduced on Oct. 5, allows islanders to download their vaccination records and show them for entry to restaurants and other services. A secure QR-code version is coming later.
- Public sector: There is no vaccine mandate in PEI but the province’s Liberals are pressing the Progressive Conservative government to create one.
- Gatherings: Personal gatherings of up to 50 are allowed indoors and outdoors, and organized events can have up to 200 indoors or 100 outdoors.
- Interprovincial travel: If you’re fully or partly vaccinated, you can apply for a PEI Pass that will allow you to skip many of the interprovincial travel restrictions, even if you’re not from Atlantic Canada. Unvaccinated people still have to self-isolate for eight days on arrival.
Nova Scotia is in Phase 4 of a five-phase reopening plan, which allows restaurants to have tables of up to 25 people indoors or outdoors, opens retail stores to full capacity and resumes full service at hair salons, spas and tattoo parlours.
- Passports: Residents 12 and older have had to show proof of full vaccination to participate in a range of “discretionary” activities since Oct. 4. A QR-code app called VaxCheckNS is coming later in October.
- Public sector: The provincial government’s existing employees and all new hires have to have proof of full vaccination by Nov. 30.
- Gatherings: Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 outdoors and 25 indoors are allowed without masks or distancing.
- Interprovincial travel: Most people from outside Atlantic Canada have to check in before they travel to Nova Scotia, but depending on their vaccination status, they may not have to self-isolate. Here is the full list of rules for all interprovincial travel.
The province lifted nearly all its COVID-19 restrictions on New Brunswick Day, Aug. 2, but as cases rose in the fall it began rolling out new regulations to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
- Passports: Since Sept. 22, New Brunswickers have had to show ID and proof of full vaccination to access restaurants, bars, gyms, indoor festivals and an array of other activities.
- Public sector: Proof of vaccination is already required at work for public servants and health care workers as of Sept. 13.
- Gatherings: Indoor gatherings are limited to the household plus 20 consistent contacts, and outdoor gatherings have no limits as long as physical distancing is observed.
- Interprovincial travel: Travellers to the province have to register their vaccination status and those who are unvaccinated will have to quarantine for 14 days.
Quebec’s lockdowns, once among the strictest in Canada, are now mostly relaxed: Every region is at Level 1 (green, or “vigilance”) of the restrictions regime. Quebec was also the first province to adopt a vaccine passport system.
- Passports: Proof of vaccination through the VaxiCode app is required for access to bars, restaurant dining rooms, gyms, festivals, sports venues, cinemas, large events, and both indoor and outdoor sports that involve prolonged contact.
- Public sector: All Quebec health care workers whose jobs involve contact with the public need to be fully vaccinated by now.
- Gatherings: Indoors, the limit for gatherings at home is 10 people from different addresses or all the members of three households; outdoors, it’s 20 people or three households.
- Interprovincial travel: People from the rest of Canada can travel to Quebec without pre-registration or isolation on arrival.
Ontario is at the penultimate step of its Roadmap to Reopen, but with the Delta variant still at large, it’s put the finishing stage of that plan on hold. It’s also implemented a vaccine passport system, a move Premier Doug Ford was initially reluctant to make but which is now necessary for non-essential businesses like gyms, theatres and indoor restaurants.
- Passports: All residents of Ontario 12 and up have to show paper or digital proof of vaccination to visit non-essential businesses. As of Oct. 14, Ontarians can download the new vaccine receipts that come with QR codes; Businesses are now able to use an app, Verify Ontario, to scan the codes.
- Public sector: All Ontario Public Service employees have to be vaccinated unless they get a religious or medical exemption. Hospitals and long-term care homes are required to have vaccination policies for staff.
- Gatherings: The limit is 25 indoors and 100 outdoors. Some capacity limits are still in place for retailers, restaurants and personal-care services.
- Interprovincial travel: Domestic entrants to Ontario do not have to self-isolate.
Much of Manitoba is at the orange, or restricted, level of its restrictions regime, but there may be stricter rules in certain regions.
- Passports: The province launched a digital vaccine passport in June. The province started requiring residents 12 and up to be fully vaccinated to access a wide range of services starting Sept. 3 and expanded that list on Sept. 7.
- Public sector: Manitoba has mandated vaccines for doctors and nurses, teachers and child-care workers, prison guards and government employees.
- Public gatherings: Fully immunized people can gather indoors and outdoors without limits, but households with at least one vaccine-eligible person (i.e. someone over 12) who isn’t vaccinated can have only one other household over.
- Interprovincial travel: Fully vaccinated people entering Manitoba don’t have to self-isolate, but 14 days of isolation are required for partly vaccinated or unvaccinated people. Within Manitoba, no travel north of the 53rd parallel is allowed, with some exceptions for residents and essential services.
Saskatchewan came around to the idea of vaccine mandates and passports much later than other provinces and its current COVID-19 restrictions are relatively looser than neighbouring Alberta and Manitoba.
- Passports: Residents have had to show proof of vaccination for many indoor spaces since Oct. 1. Unvaccinated residents are able to access non-essential services by showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead. The province is aiming to roll out a vaccine passport this fall.
- Public sector: Employees of Crown corporations have to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing.
- Public gatherings: No limits indoor or outdoors.
- Interprovincial travel: Self-isolation is not required for visitors or residents returning from out-of-province.
As case numbers rose sharply in September, the Kenney government changed course on its speedy reopening plan, reintroducing physical distancing and declaring a new health emergency.
- Passports: Since Sept. 20, businesses have had to demand that patrons show proof of at least one vaccine dose (two doses starting Oct. 25) or a negative COVID-19 test from the past 72 hours. Individuals can ask for medical or religious exemptions and businesses can opt out of the passport regime, but if they do, they’ll face extra capacity restrictions.
- Public sector: Alberta Health Services will require all employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31, meaning they should get their second dose no later than Oct. 16.
- Gatherings: Indoor private gatherings aren’t allowed for unvaccinated Albertans 12 and older, and for fully vaccinated people, the limit is two households to a maximum of 10 vaccine-eligible people. Outdoor private gatherings are restricted to 20 people.
- Interprovincial travel: New arrivals to Alberta don’t have to self-isolate.
B.C. has a four-stage plan to reopen as more of its population is vaccinated. Since Sept. 13, a passport system has barred unvaccinated people from many non-essential businesses, sporting events and other recreational activities.
- Passports: Since Sept. 13, residents 12 and up have had to use a QR code-based app to show proof of at least one COVID-19 shot before they can access several non-essential services. By Oct. 24, residents will need to prove they have been fully vaccinated. This applies to restaurants, clubs, ticketed sporting events and large events such as weddings.
- Public sector: Health care workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 26.
- Gatherings: Each B.C. health region sets its own gathering limits.
- Interprovincial travel: All cross-province travel is permitted without any self-isolation requirements.
Nunavut doesn’t have a staged reopening plan, but instead reassesses its public-health measures case by case every two weeks.
- Passports: The territory has said it has no plans to create a vaccine passport or mandate.
- Interterritorial travel: Fully vaccinated people can apply for an exemption to Nunavut’s rules for self-isolation on arrival; if they’re not eligible, they must self-isolate for 14 days before they fly in either via Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife.
As in Nunavut, the territory’s Emerging Wisely plan doesn’t have phases; instead, it gives a fluid list of risk-reduction advice and estimated dates for when gathering limits, self-isolation requirements and permitted indoor activities will change.
- Passports: Residents can request their vaccination records but there is no organized system requiring them to be shown for access to services.
- Public sector: Employees who work in remote communities or with vulnerable people have to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30.
- Gatherings: Indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 200 are allowed, and event organizers can apply for an exemption if they expect more people.
- Interterritorial travel: Leisure travel to the Northwest Territories is prohibited. Fully vaccinated people can come for work or family reasons without having to self-isolate; for partly vaccinated people, isolation is a minimum of eight days plus a negative COVID-19 test, and for unvaccinated people, it’s 10 days.
Yukon began to lift more restrictions in August under its A Path Forward plan, phasing out indoor mask mandates and self-isolation for domestic travellers as of Aug. 4. (Retailers, restaurants and transit agencies can still request that users wear masks.)
- Passports: Yukon created a digital vaccine credential program, but it is intended for residents who plan to travel to other parts of Canada, where vaccines are required to access non-essential services.
- Public sector: Premier Sandy Silver has said he has no plans to issue vaccine mandates.
- Public gatherings: Households can interact with a bubble of up to 20 people from up to five households without physical distancing.
- Interterritorial travel: Those entering Yukon don’t have to self-isolate.
More coronavirus resources
The Globe and Mail
Compiled by Globe staff
Tamsin McMahon and Evan Annett, with reports from The Canadian Press
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