Provincial vaccine passports to be certified for travel as interim measure: Trudeau

·3 min read

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — A re-elected Liberal government would certify provincial vaccine passports for use in international travel as an interim measure until a federal version is put in place, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Asked to lay out a timeline for the federal vaccine passport his party has promised to deliver, Trudeau said any national program would have to follow initiatives at the provincial level, since health information is the purview of provinces.

"Before getting to a federal proof of vaccination to allow for international travel in something that could be aligned with, and perhaps inserted in, your Canadian passport, we have to work with the provinces anyway to get that information," he said.

Several provinces have already created their own system, or plan to do so, and Trudeau said his party is working with them to "add a federal element of certification so you can show it at international airports" for travel purposes.

"It is an interim measure that will be very good for the next year or so, easily, while we prioritize the things that are going to keep Canadians safe," he said.

"We will be bringing in that more formalized version in the coming months or a year perhaps, but the priority is giving people a solid document that will allow them to do both things (travelling and accessing non-essential services domestically)."

Last week, Trudeau announced a re-elected Liberal government would set aside $1 billion to help provinces seeking to create their own vaccine passports for domestic use.

The Liberal leader spoke Friday from a hangar at Canada's busiest airport where he again touted his plan to make vaccination mandatory for travellers on planes, trains and cruise ships.

Mandatory immunization has been a hot topic in the election — and one that the leaders addressed in Thursday night’s French-language debate.

Trudeau said he won’t force anyone to get a COVID-19 shot, but plans to restrict the privileges of those who refuse to get one without a medical reason.

Also Friday, Trudeau said he expects Canadian Blood Services to soon overturn a discriminatory policy that prevents many gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

The Liberals first made the promise to overturn the ban during their successful 2015 campaign, but it isn't mentioned in the party's re-election platform this year.

Canada introduced a lifetime ban for gay men in 1992 and in 2013 changed it so blood would be accepted from a man who abstained from sex with another man for at least five years.

The waiting period then dropped to one year, and became three months in 2019.

Trudeau blamed cuts by the previous Conservative government for the delay by the independent blood-donation agency, which he says didn't have the data needed to make a final decision.

Recently, Canadian Blood Services said that by the end of 2021, it would recommend to Health Canada that it remove the waiting period and bring in screening for all donors based on sexual behaviour.

It reiterated this goal in a statement on Friday and said it would take time to go through Health Canada’s approval process and then implement the change.

“We believe we now have the evidence we need to make a strong submission and are hard at work on this important step toward a more inclusive system,” the agency said.

Trudeau would only say that he expects an announcement soon.

"We have said consistently right back since 2015 that the ban on blood donation, on giving blood, for men who have sex with men is unacceptable, discriminatory and wrong," Trudeau said.

"We are very, very hopeful and we expect Canadian Blood Services to announce soon that the ban … will be lifted shortly. It is something that we are working on, continue to work on. It is something we will ensure happens."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 3, 2021.

— with files from Mia Rabson and Jordan Press in Ottawa

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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