It was noticeable that this announcement lacked any update of the “Pan-Canadian vaccination certificate”, which the Trudeau government announced in August shortly before the federal election was triggered.
A government background report published on Wednesday merely said that “this document, which will be made available to travelers in digital formats, is easily recognized and trusted” and that “it will make it easy and quick for travelers to provide transport companies and border guards in other countries will”. Countries with their validated COVID-19 vaccination history, which is needed for travel facilitation.
As POLITICO already reported, the planning for this nationally and internationally recognized document is taking longer than expected. The European Union has put its continent-wide vaccination certificate online since the summer.
Since November, the Trudeau government has been trying to marry an unequal network of provincial and territorial vaccine registries – and hiring accounting and tech giant Deloitte to bridge the gap between these disparate systems.
The first step, due “mid-fall” according to an internal government presentation, was to bring all provinces and territories to a single standard for this vaccination record – through a locally issued QR code that could be scanned, and Validated across the country and abroad.
Another step was the creation of a federal portal that would enable Canadians to obtain a government-stamped vaccination certificate that would be internationally recognized – similar to a real passport. Deloitte was commissioned to develop a system in Ottawa that can at least interact with the various provincial databases.
Today even this first step has got off to a rocky start. Two sources with knowledge of the plans, neither of which had the authority to go on record and who spoke on condition of anonymity, say that although there has been progress, there is still no consistency across the country.
Most, if not all, provinces and territories have agreed to adopt an internationally recognized QR code standard – one that should mean that an app in New Brunswick could, and it would, scan the QR code of a Manitoban vaccine Verifying proof is legitimate.
Part of the problem, according to a source, is that the provinces have their own definitions of “fully vaccinated” and are not looking to get on the same page. Nova Scotia, for example, recognizes as fully vaccinated anyone who has received a full course of a World Health Organization-approved vaccination like Sinovac, while Ontario does not.
If Ottawa has a role to play in making up for these differences, it doesn’t seem to play it.
“They were basically saying, ‘This is how you talk to each other’ and now the provinces have to find out,” a source said. “It’s completely decentralized, and that makes sense considering how healthcare ‘works’ in this country.”
Some provinces have fully adhered to federal standards: Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan have released the cryptographic keys that allow their QR codes to be read in other jurisdictions using the same standard and in each other’s provinces. The Ontario vaccine pass is expected to operate to a similar standard. This internationally recognized format should be incorporated into vaccination record apps in California, New York, and elsewhere.
But other provinces have yet to follow suit.
It remains to be seen how airlines and VIA Rail will validate the different types of vaccination records for travelers. A source said they expect Air Canada and WestJet airlines to simply develop their own applications. It is precisely for this reason that Canada has started work on a federal government-issued vaccination certificate.
When asked about the lack of a national vaccine database on Wednesday, Trudeau told reporters, “The federal government does not have this information and, frankly, is happy not to have this information for privacy reasons.”
Trudeau said his government was working to “incorporate proof of digital vaccination codes into” [the air carriers] Online booking process so that when you print out your boarding pass at the airport or in advance, a clearly labeled vaccination certificate is displayed indicating how these carriers will validate the vaccination card.
A spokesman for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada told POLITICO that Ottawa is continuing to work on this national vaccine database. “The standardized Pan Canadian vaccination record is a factual document that shows that a traveler has been vaccinated against COVID-19,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “It is expected to have a common appearance and include the holder’s COVID-19 vaccination history, such as the number of doses, the vaccine type (s), and the date and place the doses were given.”
This document will be useful for travel within Canada and beyond, they wrote, and could even be used as a domestic vaccination record.
“We continue to aim for an autumn schedule,” they wrote.
Not all headaches are in government. The dissemination of these various vaccination passport applications is also facing a bottleneck on the part of the industry. Since provinces and territories have released applications to view and validate these QR codes for both citizens and businesses, they have relied on the ubiquity of Apple and Google app stores.
A source said that while Apple was quick to approve these apps, Google was significantly slower. This has hampered efforts by some provinces to release their vaccination record applications and update existing versions.
When asked about the delays, a Google spokesman told Politico that “our team is working hard to speed up the checks so that COVID-19 vaccine passport apps can be released on the Play Store.” The spokesman said there may be “additional levels of verification, e.g.
However, in the past few weeks there have been a deluge of counterfeit versions of Quebec’s VaxiPass app in the Google Play Store.
“[The] Tech giants are unable to move forward quickly, ”a source said. “Deloitte is slow. Small actors are neither in the system nor do they have the contacts. So it’s a procurement nightmare. “
However, the Canadian government is in the process of starting a central register: but not for the detection of vaccinations.
As part of their plan to require federal officials to be vaccinated, Ottawa intends to create a database to track the vaccination status of these employees. However, because Ottawa cannot scan or validate their vaccination records, these workers must sign a certificate stating that they have actually been vaccinated. These attestations are tracked by the Government of Canada Vaccine Attestation Tracking System.
The system crashed shortly after it started on Wednesday.
Federal employees will have to log into this system in the coming weeks to confirm that they are indeed vaccinated. Trudeau insisted that “we are putting in place critical processes to ensure that these certificates are, in fact, genuine,” but did not say what those processes would look like.