Premier ‘disappointed’ with businesses flouting B.C. vax card rules

More than 3m British Columbians have signed up to prove vaccination status

B.C. Premier John Horgan | Government of B.C.

B.C.’s vaccine card has proven broadly popular across the province of five million since it was deployed earlier this month, with 3.1 million residents signing up so far.

That hasn’t stopped many private businesses from publicly declaring they won’t be checking patrons to find out if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. Other businesses have been targeted by angry patrons, demanding entry into locations the province describes as non-essential without showing proof of vaccination.

The province’s top political leader said Thursday he’s “disappointed” with those flouting the new rules that went into effect September 13.

“But I don’t believe wagging fingers is going to solve the problem,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said during a press conference.

Instead, he’s urging British Columbians to consider the benefits of signing up in order to visit everything from bars to cinemas; from sports games to restaurants.

“What we need to do is to remind those businesses that 3.1 million British Columbians is a really big part of the market,” Horgan said.

“For those who want to skirt the rules, either by disregarding the passport as a provider of non-essential services, now there will be consequences for that. But in terms of enforcement we were working with communities, and health authorities and regions to fund the best way to do that.”

B.C. officials have been urging businesses not to call police as the first resort in the event patrons choose not to show proof of vaccination.

Instead, the province is hoping individuals will be dissuaded by a fine of up to $575, which could be issued by cannabis inspectors, health inspectors, community safety units, gaming investigators and bylaw officers.

“Enforcement will be difficult,” lawyer Jordan Thompson, a senior associate specializing in labour, employment and human rights at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, said last week during a Surrey Board of Trade event.

Despite some businesses announcing they will openly flout the new requirements to confirm patrons’ proof of vaccination, Thompson said the best course of action is to maintain compliance with the new orders even if businesses are met with resistance from British Columbians.

“In the event the business does receive a human rights complaint, it will be able to simply point to its obligation under one of the two respective orders, and the promotion of public health generally as a justification for the discriminatory conduct,” he said.

Thompson said the most contentious issue facing the B.C. vaccine card rollout has been the seeming lack of permissible exemptions for people who have a “medical contradiction” preventing vaccination, such as the immunocompromised.

He noted B.C. is taking a stricter approach than provinces like Ontario, which have carved out such exemptions.

Thompson said the number of people who would genuinely qualify is so small that granting the exemption would not have a discernible impact on the government’s public health goals.

Businesses/events that require proof of vaccination

·      Restaurants (indoor/outdoor dining), pubs

·      Organized indoor events such as weddings, business conferences

·      Concerts, clubs, cinemas, casinos

·      Fitness centres, adult sports, indoor group exercise activities

·      Indoor ticketed sporting events like the BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Canucks

How to apply

·      Visit http://gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard

·      Entering personal health number, date of birth and date of either the user’s first or second COVID-19 vaccine dose

·      Save digital version to mobile device or print off paper copy from website

·      If one does not have computer or internet access, call 1-833-838-2323 to get a paper copy mailed

What businesses need to know

·      Verify users’ vaccination status by downloading BC Card Vaccine Verifier and scanning QR code featured on users’ digital cards or paper copies

·      Verify vaccination status visually by looking at the card and checking the user’s name and vaccination details

·      Confirm that the user’s government-issued photo ID matches the name of B.C. vaccine card

torton@biv.com

@reporton