Health unit and Sudbury police on the lookout for fake vaccine passports

·4 min read

Some unvaccinated residents of the Sudbury district might be against getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but they're not against being dishonest.

That's because there have been suggestions that some residents think it is easy to produce a fake vaccine receipt and police have learned of at least one case where a person offered to provide a fake document.

Under the provincial Reopening Ontario Act, which is in fact a law, Ontario residents must provide proof of vaccination to gain access to certain businesses and venues.

This includes several areas, mainly indoor places, such as bars, restaurants, nightclubs, fitness facilities, sports and recreation venues, cinemas, casinos, bingo halls and bathhouses. This would include attendance at a Sudbury Wolves hockey game at the Sudbury Arena.

Jonathan Groulx, the manager of health protection at PHSD, said the vaccination passport procedure has a couple of expectations.

"What's expected from the customer is to provide photo ID and proper proof of vaccination receipt," said Groulx.

"What's expected from the business is that they give their best effort to confirm proof of vaccination," he added.

Groulx said there is no expectation that any business should be an expert on forged or faked documents, but the health unit is asking for "that best effort" from businesses to ensure that members of the public have their proof of vaccination receipt.

Groulx said anyone or any business that is not sure can telephone the health unit at 705-522-9200 to get additional information if a person has gained access using a questionable document.

"So, any questions that businesses have, they can call us, and we'll continue to educate on what to look for and what's not acceptable. But if somebody is going out of their way to forge those documents, that's not something we would hold against a business that's working, giving their best effort to enforce the regulation.

On the flip side of the coin, if a business accepts customers without asking for a vaccine receipt, Groulx said other customers can advise the health unit with a complaint.

Groulx said in those cases, a health unit inspector can visit the establishment to determine the nature of the complaint and take appropriate action.

In Kingston, Ontario in September one restaurant said it would not comply with the vaccine law. Ontario's Alcohol and Gaming Commission responded by suspending the liquor licence at the J.A.K.K. Tuesdays sports pub in that city.

Groulx said all local complaints will be investigated so members of the public can feel safe when they attend a public venue. He added that many customers are vigilant and do in fact call the health unit.

"We receive complaints from the public on a daily basis regarding, you know, different types of public places, whether it be restaurants, or the gym, and then we would follow up with the operators," said Groulx, who acknowledged that not everyone agrees with the law.

"I think there's been some pushback, but I think the majority of Sudburians understand the importance of vaccination and I think for the most part, people are complying."

Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) spokesperson Kaitlyn Dunn said there are no reports of anyone actually being caught trying to use a fake document, but a Sudbury resident did inform police when someone tried to provide the person with a fake proof-of-vaccination passport.

"The individual declined and reported it to police,” Dunn said. “The incident is being investigated by our Police Community Response Centre."

She added that using a forged document could result in a criminal charge of Uttering a Forged Document and producing/distributing a forged document could result in a criminal charge of Forgery. If convicted, both of these offences hold a potential penalty of up to 10 years in prison, she said.

"In a situation where we receive a report regarding an alleged fake COVID-19 vaccination passport, we would initiate an investigation that would require collaboration with the Ministry of Health in order to determine the validity of the document," said Dunn.

She added that police will continue to work in collaboration with the City of Greater Sudbury By-law Enforcement and Public Health Sudbury and Districts when it comes to responding to COVID-19 complaints.

Dunn said all complaints related to COVID-19 should be directed to 3-1-1 and an operator will divert the call to the appropriate response agency. She said police officers are dispatched to calls for service based on priority determined by the level of urgency and the level of risk to Public Safety.

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com

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