Ontario vaccine certificate appears to be reducing cases, with few problems for bylaw and police
More than two weeks have gone by since Ontario took another step to limit the viral spread that causes COVID-19.
Premier Doug Ford caved on his decision to implement a vaccine passport for residents in the province. Instead, dubbed an “enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certification,” the system that was launched September 22 allows fully inoculated individuals to enjoy all amenities including places that are not essential.
Residents have to show their government regulated vaccine slip and valid identification to access most recreational activities. At the doors of restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports events, and banquet halls (on top of many other private establishments such as those that host childrens’ parties) a staff member will sift through a line of people to make sure those who enter are double dosed.
Unlike mandates being used by municipal governments and some employers to make sure their employees are vaccinated, the certification system does not allow the use of a negative test. You either have two doses of the vaccine or you are not allowed the same privileges enjoyed by those who do. Two medical exemptions are deemed permitted, but only with a note upon entry of the establishment from a doctor: an allergic reaction to the vaccine; and specific types of heart inflammation that can be caused by the vaccine.
The strict rules push individuals who are not vaccinated to get the doses and also puts an onus on cities and businesses to monitor and abide by the new rules.
While Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown has continued his pattern of using the pandemic to draw attention to himself, his initial claims of problems for municipalities as a result of the certification policy, have not been realized. He also made false claims that Peel police would not enforce public safety around the certification requirement. Both of his assumptions have not been born out by the reality since the certification took effect.
“When I look at this policy, there's going to be costs for the police, there are going to be costs for the bylaw department, for the public health inspectors. And those resources have yet to be allocated,” Brown said, when the new policy was launched.
Peel police responded immediately to Brown’s claim that officers would not be enforcing the new rules.
“We are committed to doing our part to keeping our communities safe, and are proud of the ongoing efforts of our members, along with other first responders, in the fight against COVID-19,” the force stated in a press release on September 27.
“While our police service is not conducting compliance checks on the new Provincial regulations, we will respond to calls which require us to maintain the peace, safety, and address any related criminal acts.
“Since the new requirement for proof of vaccination against COVID-19 came into effect, we have received only a few calls regarding the new protocols. We will continue to work closely with our municipalities, the Province of Ontario, businesses and the public, to ensure our residents are protected from this virus.”
Brampton and Mississauga have reported very few instances of non-compliance, and media reports of protests against the rules have not been reflected in the situation on the ground for municipal bylaw enforcement officers.
At an early stop on the recent federal election campaign trail in Mississauga, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a re-elected Liberal government would allocate $1 billion to provinces to help create their vaccine passport or certification system. At the time Ford was still pushing back against the idea, saying it would create a “split society.”
Days later more data from the Province showed without limiting potential spread caused by unvaccinated residents, the fourth wave would likely rise. The modeling painted a bleak picture: a similar situation to wave three could once again be seen, without stricter measures to protect residents.
The Ontario Science Advisory Table explained how quickly the Delta variant can infect people and how high the risk of hospitalization is. Armed with the knowledge, the committee explained how important vaccination is against the virus. If Ontario is unable to reduce transmission ICU capacity could exceed wave three’s high in the coming weeks.
More than two weeks into the certification program, it seems to be helping. On September 22, the day it was launched, the seven-day average for the number of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario was 692. As of yesterday, October 10, it was 538.
The Ontario dashboard, as of October 10, shows new COVID-19 cases have come down since the fourth wave crested around the same time the vaccine certification program was launched September 22.
(Government of Ontario)
The fourth wave that began to swell in early August finally prompted Ford to backtrack by mid September as the provincial government prepared to implement the “enhanced” vaccination certification.
Since the certification requirements, municipalities have not seen any increase in funds to their bylaw departments.
Trudeau and his new Liberal government has yet to make his $1-billion promise come to fruition.
When initially asked how the certification will be enforced if some people don’t comply, Health Minister Christine Elliott said, “If at any point they [businesses] feel threatened we want them to call 9-1-1 as soon as possible to make sure that our police officers can be there to assist.”
Elliott’s comments sparked a response from Toronto Police to remind people 911 is used for imminent threats and emergencies only. Despite forces reiterating when to call, Peel Regional Police (PRP) only received approximately 30 complaints in the first week.
“All incidents have either been deferred to Municipal By-Law or rectified by officers upon arrival. There were even some incidents that were resolved prior to police arrival,” a PRP spokesperson told The Pointer.
Sam Rogers, Mississauga’s director of enforcement said his team is taking an educational approach to the new certification system with businesses. Some smaller establishments expressed concern about their obligation and the possible lack of resources to ensure compliance with the provincial policy.
“We are in the education and information phase, we are not looking to enforce through tickets and charges at this point, unless it's some type of an egregious offence,” Rogers said after the first week.
He confirmed bylaw responded to 17 calls in the first week of implementation, none of which were considered what Rogers calls “an egregious offence.”
There have been few problems since, and neither bylaw nor police have reported any serious concerns, more than two weeks into the program.
After the announcement of the system, media outlets reported a number of businesses wouldn’t be asking for certifications. In those instances, Rogers said they would educate the owners on the rules and come back at a later date to follow up. Bylaw will not be conducting any random checks in this phase.
Peel police is hopeful as weeks go by even fewer calls will be directed to them as more people understand and comply with the rules set out by the Province. The only time a call should be directed to police is when the safety of an individual is threatened. All complaint-based calls should be directed to bylaw in both cities by calling 3-1-1.
Brampton’s bylaw department said in an email to The Pointer during the first week of the program that the vast majority of complaints were from patrons saying a business did not ask for their certificate. The other calls were for members of the public who refused to show their proof of vaccination, but no charges were laid.
In the same email, bylaw mentioned the department is currently allocating resources to the “unplanned and unbudgeted” calls for the vaccine certification. The spokesperson did not share the number of such calls received within the first week.
Those looking to engage in a number of activities, including indoor dining, are now required to be fully vaccinated.
(Photo from Isaac Callan/The Pointer)
The Pointer also reached out to Mayor Bonnie Crombie to understand Mississauga’s stance on enforcement.
“Receiving more financial support from higher orders of government remains a top priority for the Mayor,” a spokesperson responded in an email. “The costs associated with increased activities on bylaw is only one of many pressures Mississauga is facing,” the spokesperson said. But these costs are not necessarily associated with enforcement of the vaccine certification program.
The email highlighted the recovery of costs associated with the Region of Peel’s vaccine rollout, citing the province had “promised” to cover any costs related to vaccine clinics and other public health expenses.
“We have not seen the full reimbursement yet,” the spokesperson said.
The more residents who follow the rules in Peel, the easier it will be on bylaw enforcement and police.
So far, despite numerous media reports highlighting protests and raising concern around non-compliance with the certification program, and the premature claims of Patrick Brown, there have been few local problems and costs associated with Ontario’s enhanced vaccine certification requirements.
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