As the travel industry pushes the government to ease travel restrictions, the federal government plans to roll out next month the first phase of its vaccine certification program for travellers entering the country, CBC News has confirmed.
Starting in early July, a new feature on the ArriveCan app will go live, according to a federal government source with direct knowledge.
The app will allow travellers to take a photo or upload a snapshot of their vaccine documentation into the app 72 hours before travelling, the source said (CBC is not identifying the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter).
The information stays in the app and isn't transferred elsewhere — an effort to address privacy concerns.
The update to the app paves the way for the government to start easing restrictions on international travel in stages. Earlier this month, the federal government said fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents crossing the border into Canada will soon no longer be required to stay at a hotel for part of their quarantine period.
In the spring, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters that the topic of vaccine certification had come up in a meeting between G7 health ministers. Since then, discussions with allies have continued on the idea of a passport or certification that would allow citizens of one country to prove to border officials in another country that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus.
Several government departments are also working on the second phase of proof-of-vaccination documentation, the source said. That digital project will employ the same technology used for Canada's e-passports, the source said.
The Toronto Star reported Thursday that this phase — which would allow Canadians to digitally verify their vaccination status with the federal government — won't be ready until the fall and will only accept proof of vaccination with one of Canada's four accredited vaccines: Pzifer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson.
Buy-in from provinces needed
According to the source, the second phase of the vaccination certificate project depends on buy-in from the provinces and territories. The federal government would need permission to connect with each jurisdiction's database to track who has received first and second doses.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada and Public Safety Canada are all working on the project.
The prime minister is meeting with premiers from across the country tonight. The issue of vaccine certificates has been a topic at the first ministers meetings dating back at least to March.
A senior federal source told CBC News Trudeau and the premiers spent a lot of time talking about vaccine certification. The source said the discussion was productive and all sides offered constructive input.
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Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at email@example.com
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