Alberta's ombudsman urging caution if province decides to look at implementing COVID-19 passports


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Any proposed COVID-19 passport or certificate program must be brought in fairly to ensure Albertans can continue to access public services, says the province’s ombudsman.

The Canadian Council of Parliamentary Ombudsman (CCPO), which Alberta is a member of, on Wednesday released a guiding document for provincial and territorial governments to consider when discussing bringing in a vaccine passport or certificate to prove someone has received a COVID-19 vaccine.

Marianne Ryan, Alberta’s ombudsman and public interest commissioner, said the CCPO wanted to get ahead of any potential discussions by government officials. She said the CCPO’s decision to provide a guiding document was prompted by general news coverage of the idea of COVID-19 passports, adding she has not heard of any talks about it in Alberta.

“We had some concerns about how some of these schemes could potentially be used when receiving public services, which is our jurisdiction,” Ryan said. “For example, will you need proof of vaccination to take a driving test, will you need it to use recreation services in your community or go to the library or attend university? We just wanted to be proactive and just plant the seed more or less.”

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She said while Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has made it clear that he has no intention of bringing in a vaccine passport, the guiding document is there to provide recommendations to ensure it would be fair. One way that could be accomplished would be by offering a certificate both digitally and physically.

Ryan, the former commanding officer for the RCMP in Alberta, said offering a paper certificate allows those without smartphones to continue to access public services.

“Again, we’re not seeing (talks about COVID-19 passports) yet here in Canada in any material way but we know the whole situation with COVID…is very dynamic and things can happen very fast,” she said. “We just think it’s really critically important for any public body to know how a vaccine certification is implemented and to make sure that it’s done fairly.”

During a Facebook live event on Wednesday, Kenney addressed questions around denying entry to those who aren’t vaccinated.

“It’s frustrating if we have a small fraction of the population that won’t be a part of this team effort to protect us all but at the end of the day, we’re not going to have Big Brother step in and ask for private health information,” he said. “There’s no precedence for that.”