Vaccinations are our best line of defense against COVID-19 and its variants. On August 13, 2021, the Government of Canada announced its intent to require COVID-19 vaccination for employees in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors and its travellers.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that, as of October 30, the Government of Canada will require employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to establish vaccination policies for their employees. Also effective October 30, travellers departing from Canadian airports, and travellers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to travel.
For travellers who are in the process of being vaccinated, there will be a short transition period where they will be able to travel if they can show a valid COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of travel, but that transition period will end on November 30.
The Government of Canada strongly advises any Canadians planning to travel by plane or train this holiday season to get vaccinated as soon as possible or they will be unable to travel. Travellers will be responsible for declaring their vaccination status and providing documentation prior to boarding.
The Government of Canada is committed to keeping the transportation sector, including employees and travellers, safe and secure. Mandatory vaccination for the federally regulated air, rail, and marine sectors helps limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 and helps prevent against future outbreaks.
Vaccine requirements for employees in the federally regulated transportation sector
As of October 30, employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors will be required to establish vaccination policies for their organizations. Specifically, the vaccination requirement will apply to:
- airlines and airports, and other organizations who have employees who enter restricted areas of airports, such as concession and hospitality workers
- federally regulated railways, and their rail crew and track employees
- marine operators with Canadian vessels that operate with 12 or more crew
Transport Canada will use its specific regulatory and oversight authorities related to operations of federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation service providers to ensure that the transportation system and these workplaces are safe through vaccination mandates. Each organization will be required to implement a rigorous policy, which must:
- Include a provision for employee attestation/declaration of their vaccination status;
- Include a description of consequences for employees who do not comply or who falsify information; and
- Meet standards consistent with the approach taken by the Government of Canada for the Core Public Administration.
After a short phase-in period, each organization is required to guarantee employees are fully vaccinated or they will be unable to work.
The Government of Canada is engaged with industry and labour groups to discuss the details to ensure an effective implementation of the requirements.
Vaccine requirements for travellers
Effective October 30, air passengers departing from Canadian airports, travellers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, and travellers on non-essential passenger vessels on voyages of 24 hours or more, such as cruise ships, will need to be vaccinated.
Effective October 30, travellers will need to be fully vaccinated in order to board. Specifically, the vaccination requirement will apply to all travellers 12 years of age and older who are:
- Air passengers flying on domestic, transborder or international flights departing from airports in Canada
- Rail passengers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains
- Marine passengers on non-essential passenger vessels, such as cruise ships, on voyages of 24 hours or more
For travellers who are in the process of being vaccinated, there will be a short transition period where they will be able to travel if they can show a valid COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of travel. By November 30, all travellers must be fully vaccinated, with very limited exceptions to address specific situations such as emergency travel, and those medically unable to be vaccinated.
In addition, this vaccination mandate will include specific accommodation to recognize the unique needs of travellers from small, remote communities (some of which are not accessible by road) to ensure they will be able to travel to obtain essential services in support of their medical, health, or social well-being, and return safely to their homes. This accommodation will be informed by engagement with Indigenous organizations and provinces and territories in the coming days.
Transport Canada will oversee compliance by means of inspections and enforcement tools—including Administrative Monetary Penalties—using oversight systems in place for each mode.
For those who falsify information or otherwise fail to comply, there will be serious consequences. For example:
- Railway companies could be subjected to compliance actions up to $250,000 per violation, per day, under the Railway Safety Act
- In the air sector, individuals—either travellers or employees—could be fined up to $5,000 per violation under the Aeronautics Act, and operators could be fined up to $25,000 per violation
- In the marine sector, employees and travellers could be fined for being non-compliant with the obligation to provide proof of vaccination up to $250,000 per violation, per day, and operators could be fined up to $250,000 per violation, per day, for non-compliance to the Interim Order made pursuant to the Canada Shipping Act, 2001
Pan-Canadian Proof of Vaccination
A pan-Canadian, secure, and standardized proof of vaccination for international travel was announced on August 11, 2021, and is being developed in partnership with provinces and territories. This document, which will be available to travellers in digital formats, will be easily recognized and trusted.
This credential will make it easy and quick for travellers to provide transportation operators and border officials in other countries with their validated COVID-19 vaccination history needed to facilitate travel.
Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to fight COVID-19 and the Government of Canada will continue to take action to get as many Canadians vaccinated as possible.
Featured image credited to Harry Alkema