All travellers in Canada must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 30 to board a plane, train or marine vessel, the Liberal government announced on Wednesday (Oct. 6).
Additionally, all federal public servants – including employees with Canada Border Services Agency – must get their COVID-19 shots by month’s end or be forced into an unpaid leave of absence by as early as Nov. 15.
“By the end of October, everyone 12 or older on a plane or train in Canada should be fully vaccinated,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking to reporters at a press conference.
The new rule applies to air passengers flying on domestic, transborder or international flights departing from airports in Canada, rail passengers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains and marine passengers on non-essential passenger vessels, such as cruise ships, on voyages of 24 hours or more.
(Click here for an official government backgrounder).
There will be a “short period” in which people who are in the process of getting vaccinated can show a negative COVID-19 test, the PM noted.
“But by end of November, if you’re 12 or older and want to fly or take the train, you will have to be fully vaccinated. As will staff,” Trudeau said. “Testing will no longer be an option before boarding.”
Trudeau emphasized that there will be only a few “extremely narrow exceptions” to the new rule, like a valid medical condition, for those who want to travel this winter.
“For the vast, vast majority of people, the rules are very simple: to travel, you’ve got to be vaccinated," he said.
The new travel measures, along with mandatory vaccination for federal employees, are “some of the strongest in the world," Trudeau added, saying that there is "no time for half measures."
"It will be very difficult and rare to obtain an exemption to this program because we know that it’s through vaccination that we will get through this pandemic to protect Canadians and the economy,” Trudeau said, speaking in French.
"Digital code" coming to boarding passes
When asked how gate agents at airports will be able to check for proof of vaccination, Trudeau said that his government is working with Canadian carriers to integrate a proof of vaccination system into their online booking process using a "digital code."
It is unclear how this new system will play out across all booking platforms.
"When you print out your boarding pass, either at the airport or in advance, there will be a clearly marked proof of vaccination thumbs up or check mark so that the gate agent doesn’t have to to be checking documentation," Trudeau said.
Vaccine passport coming in "weeks to come"
The PM added that a vaccine passport for international travel will be ready in “the weeks to come" as Ottawa continues to work with the provinces, which hold the information on who is vaccinated and who isn't.
In August, federal officials said fully vaccinated Canadians would able to obtain a vaccine certificate by “early fall.”
The credentials, a system that will likely be built into the already-built ArriveCAN app, will be available to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents if they’ve had a full series of a COVID-19 vaccine, officials said at the time.
The Liberal government first announced in August its intention to make vaccines mandatory for federal public servants and travellers on planes, ships and trains.
Trudeau has treated the mandate as a top post-election priority.
"I was very clear on that and I have for weeks and weeks now," Trudeau told journalists on Sept. 28. "Make sure that you and all members of your family over 12 years old have gotten vaccinated and are getting your second shot if you haven't already, because you will not be able to travel on a plane or a train in Canada if you are not fully vaccinated."
This is a developing story.