vaccine passport ontario

Here's how much you can be fined for violating Ontario's vaccine passport rules

In less than a week, most people in Ontario will need to show proof of vaccination to enter bars, restaurants, cinemas, gyms and other businesses that have been deemed "high risk" for the transmission of COVID-19.

Details of the province's enforcement plan revealed earlier this week include stiff fines for non-compliance, though a long list of exemptions could punch some large holes in our collective safety net.

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Kieran Moore offered up more details about how vaccine passports would be enforced on Tuesday.

This includes fines for fraudsters and people unwilling to comply with screening once the measures take effect on September 22.

For the 81.2 per cent of Ontarians who are fully vaccinated, it should be mostly smooth sailing, though the first month might present some challenges.

Ontario's digital vaccine certificates (with convenient QR codes) won't be available for a full month after the rules take effect, meaning patrons will have to show businesses proof of vaccination through their email or printed receipts for manual verification.

Those unwilling to comply or skirt the rules with fake documents may have to dig deep into their pockets, as police and by-law officers will be issuing fines starting at $750 for patrons and $1,000 for businesses.

These fines are relatively mild compared to the much harsher penalties laid out in the province’s Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act.

This 2020 act came with harsh penalties, including fees of up to $500,000 and up to one year of incarceration for an individual who is a director or officer of a corporation, and up to $10,000,000 for corporations themselves.

While the news of fines for non-compliance has been welcomed by many, there appear to be cracks in how enforcement will be carried out. There are a number of loopholes exempting businesses and individuals from proof of vaccination.

These exemptions apply largely to children, including all business patrons under 12 years of age, and youth under 18 years old entering a sports and recreational fitness facility using it solely for participating in organized sport.

Medical exemptions include anyone who can provide a written document from a doctor or registered nurse containing a documented medical reason for not being fully vaccinated and the effective time period for the medical exemption.

But wait, there are even more people who won't be required to show proof of vaccination, including anyone entering a meeting or event space like a convention centre, to attend events such as a wedding, rite or funeral.

Similarly, religious services in a funeral establishment, cemetery, or crematorium will be exempt from proof of vaccination.

While many events of a spiritual or religious nature are exempt, this does not extend to any other types of social gatherings.

Tuesday's announcement was quickly slammed by Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, saying in a statement later that day that "we were all sorely let down by the Ford government."

Horwath criticizes the late timing and countless loopholes that could diminish the effectiveness of the province's proof of vaccination program.

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