Vaccine passports have been the cause of division and major controversy for a lot of Canadians since the federal election was announced.
For Matthew Percy, it’s a sense of extra protection.
“I have felt it offers a safer environment to be working in and certainly in this initial phase (of the passport), I have a sense of added security,” he says.
Percy, who is the catering manager at The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, has been working remotely from home since the first lockdown. He is now able to work through a hybrid option – going back to work in-person and working from home on days he doesn’t need to be at the club.
He says the overall attitude and beliefs for the passport is disappointing.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s become such a polarizing subject,” Percy says. “Vaccine passports for safety and livelihood I’m supportive of. I’m disappointed with the fact that it’s become so polarizing and has caused so much grief for a lot of people.”
The Arts and Letters Club, located just off Yonge and Dundas, is a meeting place in downtown Toronto for artist professionals. The bulk of the membership are seniors, those who are most affected by the virus and who also voted in favour of introducing a vaccine passport – over 70 per cent.
The club is doing all it can to make sure the membership is protected. Not only does it require members and clients to be fully vaccinated but the club is also introducing a vaccine waiver. Percy says the waiver was recommended by the legal counsel to absolve the club of any liability if an attendee of the club was to contract COVID.
“I would say that aspect of our policy has been more controversial than the vaccine policy in and of itself,” Percy says. “There are a lot of members who have refused to sign that waiver and who have asked their lawyers to look at it. When we introduce this to outside clients, I think the waiver more than the vaccine passport could be a stumbling block to getting outside business.”
Starting next Wednesday, Sept. 22, the provincial government will implement the vaccine passport for all Ontarians. Those who wish to attend movie theatres, restaurants, bars and other indoor settings will have to show proof of being fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) along with photo ID. Children under 12 years old, those using an indoor restroom, and placing or picking up an order are just some of the exemptions.
The passport comes at the same time as Monday’s federal election as well. All parties, except for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada (PPC), fully support mandatory vaccinations and the vaccine passport. The PPC strongly oppose the vaccine passport altogether, while federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has said his party would require unvaccinated Canadian travelers and federal public servants to pass a negative test result or daily rapid test. Whether the Conservatives would make the vaccine passport mandatory is unclear.
On Oct. 22, the passport will shift to digital certificates by release of a “verification app” which will include QR codes that can be used to validate and provide the vaccination status of a patron. The digital certificates will contain the same information included on the vaccination receipts that are already available.
Percy says because the club has instituted such a vigorous and robust vaccine policy that has very little accommodation, it’s having a huge impact on the club’s immediate future.
“There were a couple of staff members who refused to get vaccinated and they are unable to come up to work. And the likelihood is that they will never return to the club. So, the choice not to get vaccinated has an immediate effect on me day-to-day because we are immediately short-staffed and immediately trying to like fill in the blanks, kind of thing.”
Matthew Percy explains what makes the club’s vaccine policy different from other establishments in Toronto.