Understanding Proof of Vaccine Requirements
There has been much discussion about Ontario’s rollout of “vaccine passports” and its consequences on individual rights and freedoms and access to services. This article will shed some light on the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (“OHRC”) policy on proof of vaccination and on the new responsibilities being placed on individuals and organizations.
What is a vaccine passport?
A “vaccine passport” is proof of vaccination. Proof of vaccination can be the receipt provided to you when you received your vaccine. It can also be accessed here on the provincial website. Proof of vaccination is used (with your ID) to show that you are fully vaccinated and able to enter higher risk indoor settings. Please note that being fully vaccinated means that you have received two vaccinations against COVID-19 and that 14 days have passed since your final dose.
Where is proof of vaccination required?
Proof of vaccination is required in indoor settings where there may be higher risk of transmission of COVID-19. This includes restaurants and bars, gyms and sporting facilities, conference and community centres, casinos and gaming halls, and movie theatres and concert venues. Proof of vaccination is also being adopted as a policy within some workplaces.
The OHRC recognizes that proof of vaccination policies and practices should be frequently reassessed and in keeping with the most up-to-date public health guidance.
Does this infringe individual rights?
The Ontario Human Rights Commission issued their policy on proof of vaccination on September 22, 2021. It states that “requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work or when receiving services is permissible as long as protections are put in place to make sure people who are unable to be vaccinated for Code-related reasons are reasonably accommodated” [emphasis added]. Reasonable accommodation can include allowing for certain exemptions (which is discussed below) or providing testing at the cost of the organization.
What if I am unable to be vaccinated?
If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you must provide a written document from a physician (MD), extended class registered nurse (RN(EC)) or nurse practitioner (NP) which states that you are exempt from being vaccinated and how long this exemption will apply to you.
If you are unable to be vaccinated due to personal preference or singular belief, you are not afforded protection under the Ontario Human Rights Code. This means that the organization or service does not have a duty to accommodate, given the personal and community safety risks associated with COVID-19 and that you can be refused access to the organization or its services.
What does this mean for you/and or your business?
Organizations and employers are now faced with the difficult task of balancing the rights of people who are not vaccinated on Code protected grounds with the need to protect the general public’s health and safety. For advice on how best to proceed in your circumstances, contact Paquette and Associates to guide you through the process and learn more about how to meet your obligations under the Human Rights Code and other relevant workplace legislation.
Authors: Rachael M. Paquette and Megan Wood