On August 23, 2021, the BC Government announced their plan to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for anyone attending various non-essential businesses, including indoor concerts, indoor ticketed sporting events, theatres, restaurants (for both indoor and patio dining), clubs, casinos, gyms, fitness classes, and organized indoor events, including weddings, parties, conferences, and workshops (“Non-Essential Businesses”), as well as residents on-campus student housing at BC universities and colleges. See the BC government’s release here.
The “Vaccine Card” requirement comes into effect on September 13, 2021, and initially requires all eligible British Columbians who wish to access Non-Essential Businesses to provide proof of their receipt of at least one dose of the vaccine. By October 24, 2021, all eligible British Columbians will need proof of both doses of the vaccine to access Non-Essential Businesses.
These new measures are intended to be temporary and will be in place until at least January 31, 2022.
What is Proof?
The Vaccine Card will be available online for access via a smart phone. For individuals who cannot access their proof of vaccination digitally, the government announced there will be a “secure alternative option” available, which has yet to be announced.
Further details about how to access the Vaccine Card will be provided by the BC Government before the Vaccine Card requirement comes into effect on September 13, 2021.
The Vaccine Card in practice
Non-Essential Businesses are required to enforce the Vaccine Card requirements by asking patrons for their proof of vaccination – much like bars, liquor stores, and restaurants have to ask for proof of age before serving liquor to patrons. Bylaw enforcement and environmental health officers will ensure Non-Essential Businesses comply with the Vaccine Card requirement, and can issue tickets of $2,300 for non-compliance.
Application to children under 12
Children under the age of 12 (who are currently ineligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine) are exempt from the Vaccine Card requirement.
Application to non-BC residents
Proof of vaccination will be required for visitors to BC. Visitors from other provinces/territories are required to show: (1) provincially/territorially officially recognized vaccine record; and (2) valid government ID from their home province/territory. Visitors from outside Canada will be required to show the proof of vaccination they used to enter Canada, and their passport.
Implications for businesses
Whether your business requires proof of vaccination from patrons depends on what type of business it is. For example, restaurants, theatres, fitness centres, and organized indoor events, among other businesses, will need to require proof of vaccination from their customers/attendees, while some other businesses, such as retail stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies, will not. Further, some workplaces, including offices, will not be not covered by the new rules.
Non-Essential Businesses will likely incur administrative costs with ensuring compliance with the Vaccine Card requirements. In particular, affected businesses will need to implement comprehensive policies and procedures for their staff to understand how to enforce the verification of customer/attendee vaccination status, and ensure this procedure is followed to avoid violation tickets and/or temporary closure.
The Vaccine Card will not be required at grocery stores or other retail settings, as the Province determined there have not been high rates of transmission in these settings, nor will it be required to enter a place of worship. K to 12 students and before and after school programs are also exempt from the Vaccine Card requirement.
People who are unable/unwilling to get the COVID-19 vaccine for health or religious reasons are not exempt from the Vaccine Card requirement.
Other than the requirement for mandatory vaccinations for on-campus student housing residents, BC universities and colleges are not expressly included in the Vaccine Card requirement. Notwithstanding, some BC universities have adopted their own approaches to implementing mandatory vaccinations. For example, the University of British Columbia (“UBC”) has announced additional requirements, including a “range of on-campus activities” that will require the Vaccine Card for participation. However, both UBC and Simon Fraser University have yet to announce whether they will require full vaccination for all on-campus attendees in the approaching fall semester.
Read more about BC’s proof of vaccination requirements here.
Please contact Jordanna Cytrynbaum for guidance on navigating the evolving COVID-19 requirements in your business and workplace.