Ontario Implements COVID-19 Vaccine Passport System
Sept 2021 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on September 29, 2021

By Terrance S. Carter and Adriel N. Clayton

Ontarians are now required to provide proof of vaccination prior to entry into certain premises, as a result of the province’s implementation of a “vaccine passport” system that commenced on September 22, 2021. Ontario Regulation 645/21, which was filed on September 14, 2021, and Ontario Regulation 678/21, which was filed on September 24, 2021, amended Ontario Regulation 364/20, Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step (“O Reg 364/20”) under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. Ontario Regulation 645/21 mandates proof of vaccination at certain non-essential venues in Ontario, some of which may be operated by charities and not-for-profits. Beyond including additional non-essential venues, Ontario Regulation 678/21 also amended O Reg 364/20 by easing capacity limits for select indoor and outdoor settings where proof of vaccination is required.

As a result of these amendments, those responsible for organizations operating areas listed in subsection 2.1(2) of Schedule 1 to O Reg 364/20 must require non-exempt patrons to provide proof of identification and of being “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19, as defined under subsection 2.1(5), at the point of entry. Of particular interest to charities and not-for-profits, areas which require proof of vaccination as set out under subsection 2.1(2) include “indoor areas of meeting and event spaces, including conference centres or convention centres” (although areas rented out for children’s camps, childcare and social services as set out in subsection 4(2) are excluded), as well as indoor areas of facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities, together with indoor areas of concert venues, theatres and cinemas. Indoor areas of meeting and event spaces may increase capacity up to 50 per cent capacity or 10,000 people, whichever is less, for indoor events.

Organizations are also exempt from enforcing vaccine passport requirements in respect of patrons who are under 12; under 18 and entering a facility to actively participate in an organized sport; or have a documented medical reason for not being vaccinated, set out in a letter in the prescribed form from a physician or registered nurse in the extended class . Further exemptions exist for those attending a wedding service, rite or ceremony, or a funeral service, rite or ceremony, including where a meeting or event space is located “in a place of worship or in a funeral establishment, cemetery, crematorium or similar establishment […] for the purposes of attending a social gathering associated with a funeral service, rite or ceremony.”

According to guidance from the Ministry of Health, proof of vaccination includes a “vaccine receipt” such as the one provided by the Ministry of Health upon receipt of all requisite vaccinations, though individuals must wait 14 days after receiving their final dose before being considered fully vaccinated. Organizations verifying proof of vaccination must also verify patrons’ identification, but are not permitted to retain any information provided by patrons under O Reg 364/20. The province has also announced that it will be introducing an “enhanced digital vaccine receipt” that features a QR code for organizations to scan, to reduce the amount of information that is disclosed to organizations, and which is anticipated to be available for use as of October 22, 2021.

While O Reg 364/20 explicitly lists settings for which vaccine passports are mandatory, organizations that run facilities excluded from mandatory proof of vaccination under O Reg 364/20 may still consider the use of vaccination policies, which are discussed in greater detail in Charity & NFP Law Bulletin No. 503, above.

Read the September 2021 Charity & NFP Law Update