This story was updated on Thursday, October 21 at 7:55 p.m. EST
The federal government has lifted the global "non-essential" travel advisory for fully-vaccinated Canadians, returning to country-specific risk assessments.
"Be aware that although you are better protected against serious illness if you are vaccinated, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19," reads an updated statement on the Government of Canada's website.
Unvaccinated travellers are still advised to avoid all non-essential travel, and the global "avoid all cruise ship" advisory remains for all travellers regardless of vaccination status.
"If you’re unvaccinated, you remain at increased risk of being infected with and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 when travelling internationally. You should continue avoiding non-essential travel to all destinations," the federal government says.
The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) issued a statement Thursday night.
"ACTA is pleased the government has returned to a risk-based approach to travel advisories for fully-vaccinated travellers," the statement reads. "This approach follows the recommendations ACTA and Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable partners have been advocating for."
All travellers are advised to stay informed of COVID-19 activity at destinations, to use personal protective measures like mask wearing, frequent hand washing, maintaining physical distancing, and to follow the public health measures of any destination.
Regardless of vaccination status, all travellers are being advised to stay informed of COVID-19 activity in destination, which can vary significantly and change quickly from one country to another and within regions of the country.
"ACTA is disappointed that the blanket advisory against all cruise ship travel remains for fully-vaccinated travellers," the association added. "Cruise line operators have proven that safe cruise travel is feasible."
The advisory to avoid all cruise travel is also a major barrier for obtaining travel insurance.
"ACTA continues to call on the federal government to lift the cruise advisory for fully-vaccinated travellers, recognizing the incredible efforts cruise lines have taken to follow strict government-mandated health and safety protocols," ACTA said.
Meanwhile, Canada has not changed the requirement for a pre-departure molecular (PCR) COVID-19 test for returning international travellers who are fully-vaccinated.
"This is a significant barrier to travellers, including families and seniors," ACTA said, urging the government to remove the pre-departure molecular test requirement in accordance with the recommendations of the COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel.
The latest commentary shared by federal officials suggests that current testing at the Canadian border is here to stay. For now.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, appearing on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live on Oct. 17, reiterated that acquiring a negative COVID-19 test has "proven to be one of the more effective requirements" for travellers.
Minister Blair said the ongoing testing regime at the border is based on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
“Again, we're continuing to evaluate it, and we'll look at the experience in other jurisdictions. But right now, it's been a very effective protection for Canadians," Blair told CBC host Rosemary Barton.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking to journalists in Washington, D.C. on Oct 14 said "the rules are the rules...and Canadians should expect to follow them.”
“I really believe that when it comes to finishing the fight against COVID, the Canadian approach, which has been to follow science, to follow the recommendations of public health authorities, and to err on the side of caution has served us really, really well," Freeland said at the time.
Vaccine certificate launched
Canada lifting its travel advisory for the fully-vaxxed comes on the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a COVID-19 proof of vaccination system that provides Canadians with a way to demonstrate that they are vaccinated against COVID-19 when travelling.
As outlined in this official backgrounder, the proof of vaccination certificate will show one’s name, date of birth, and COVID-19 vaccine history — including which doses were injected and when — and integrate information into a QR code.
“You can download it into your phone, you can print it out, you can ask for a copy by mail if you don’t have those capacities, but you are now able to show proofs of vaccination immediately in all those provinces, and all other provinces have agreed and are working hard to come online,” Trudeau said on Thursday.
The “pan-Canadian” system will be unrolled by the provinces, with Saskatchewan, Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and all three territories already making it available to citizens.
"Not every province has yet to deliver,” Trudeau said. “I know they are all working very quickly and should have it resolved in the weeks to come, certainty in time for when people start to travel again as we ease off some of those travel restrictions and demand proof of vaccination for travelling.”
While the proof "does not guarantee entry to another country,” as reads a statement on the government's website, Trudeau told reporters today that he is "very confident" that Canada's certificate will be accepted by destinations worldwide.