COVID-19 | Can Private Businesses Ask for Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination?

AuthorEl Fakhry Tuttle, Myrna

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Some employers and businesses may require vaccines for employers and customers.

The federal and provincial governments in Canada have decided not to mandate COVID-19 vaccines. This decision comes despite high rates of vaccine hesitancy and even though the majority of people need to be vaccinated to return to normal life.

The federal government has refused since the beginning of the pandemic to invoke Canada's Emergencies Act, which gives it extensive powers. Also, provinces have refused to mandate vaccinations despite the fact that they have the power, under provincial laws, to do so at the advice of a government official or the provinces' Chief Medical Officers of Health.

For instance, under section 123 of Quebec's Public Health Act, after declaring a public health emergency, the government has the power to "order compulsory vaccination of the entire population or any part of it against... any contagious disease seriously threatening the health of the population" without delay and without further formality. Likewise, under section 38 of Alberta's Public Health Act, the government has the power to order "the immunization or re-immunization of persons when there is a public health emergency or epidemic".

However, and despite these provisions, Quebec, Alberta and most provinces have declined to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory. It is important to note that if federal and provincial governments had decided to exercise their powers and mandate the vaccine, that would have been considered forced medical treatment. This decision could be challenged under section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter).

Response from Employers and Businesses

Since COVID-19 vaccines are voluntary, proof of vaccination against the virus is a step that employers and private businesses can take into account. In fact, some private companies already plan--once the vaccine is extensively available--to request that customers provide proof of vaccination before providing any services.

Most businesses have suffered economically during the pandemic. They depend on a high percentage of the population being vaccinated to return to normal business. Therefore, these businesses have the right to determine their own policies, particularly because they have an obligation to keep their workers and customers safe.

Airlines, restaurants, bars, sports arenas, movie theatres, concert venues, etc. can set their own rules and refuse to serve, or...

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