In August 2021, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would implement a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for domestic and international air travelers, inter-provincial rail and cruise ship passengers.1
According to The Globe and Mail, Canada has one of the highest COVID vaccination rates in the world. At least 73 percent of people eligible for the vaccine have been fully vaccinated.2
Proof of Vaccination Required for Air, Train and Cruise Ship Travel in Canada
Since November 30, 2021, travelers in Canada ages 12 years an older must show proof they are fully vaccinated to board flights, trains and cruise ships in Canada. The federal government introduced the vaccine requirement to with the goal of increasing COVID vaccination rates.3
The government of Canada’s website states:
If you don’t provide proof of vaccination (or valid COVID-19 test result if you have an exemption), you won’t be able to travel.4
There are some exceptions to the vaccine mandate. Unvaccinated foreigners in Canada were permitted to a board a flight departing the country until February 28, 2022. Some unvaccinated foreign nationals can still enter Canada via air travel, such as new permanent residents. Canadians returning to Canada are also exempt from the vaccine requirement but are required to comply with pre and post arrival COVID regulations.5
Kerri Froc, PhD, a constitutional law professor at the University of New Brunswick said:
You have the right to come into Canada if you’re a citizen because [the charter] is basically trying to not have a situation where someone is stateless. It’s a very fundamental human right.6
Dr. Froc also adds that the government can make it difficult for unvaccinated Canadians to enter Canada. Unvaccinated travelers face stricter entry requirements than vaccinated travelers, which include taking a COVID test upon arrival at the airport, self-isolating for 14 days and taking a second test while in quarantine.7
Some Doctors Want No COVID Vaccine Mandates for Travel
There are some medical professionals in Canada who are pointing out that vaccine mandates for travel need to be lifted due ethical and scientific reasons. Zain Chagla, MD, associate professor of medicine at McMaster University said:
Knowing that two doses of vaccines likely doesn’t prevent a lot of transmission, it really does start poking holes in the fact that this mandate is meant to [prevent] transmission.8
While lifting the mandate may seem unfair to those who were vaccinated, there are real equity issues with keeping it on the books. Many individuals may not be able to access essential life events, visit family or friends, or engage in employment opportunities, because of these regulations. While we may have beliefs around vaccination, denying an individual the ability to say goodbye at a funeral is not a part of our values as Canadians.9
Tamika McIntosh of Brampton, Ontario was not allowed to board a plane to fly to Jamaica to attend her grandfather’s funeral. She said:
You don’t get the closure when you don’t get to physically be there to say goodbye. Until I physically get to go to his gravesite and spend some time there, that void will always be open. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t have mobility rights. I’m still stuck in a country and I can’t leave. I just feel like I have the right to choose.10
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Click here to view References:
1 Walsh M, Stone L. Trudeau says people who are not fully vaccinated won’t be able to travel on domestic planes or trains. The Globe and Mail Aug. 18, 2022.
3 Harris S. Why some unvaccinated Canadian travellers are still able to board a plane. CBC Jan. 28, 2022.
4 Government of Canada. COVID-19 Boarding flights and trains in Canada. Travel.gc.ca May. 10, 2022.
5 Walsh M, Stone L. Trudeau says people who are not fully vaccinated won’t be able to travel on domestic planes or trains. The Globe and Mail Aug. 18, 2022.
8 Harris S. COVID-19 restrictions are lifting, but unvaccinated Canadians still can’t board planes or trains. CBC Mar. 23, 2022.
9 Chagla Z. The logic behind vaccine mandates for travellers no longer holds. The Globe and Mail May 11, 2022.