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July 13, 2021

Assessing the Legal Hurdles to Vaccine Passports

  • In this report five leading experts in health law and medicine at the University of Ottawa examine vaccine passports in the context of Charter rights, privacy rights, and implementation.
  • The paper first explores whether a vaccine passport regime would infringe Charter rights, including mobility rights, rights to liberty and security of the person, freedom of religion and conscience, and rights to equality and non-discrimination. Broadly speaking, the authors conclude that a well-designed vaccine passport regime, backed by an equitable vaccine distribution scheme, will likely withstand a Charter challenge.
  • The paper then turns to an in-depth discussion of privacy issues, first exploring key aspects of privacy compliance in the design of vaccine passports before turning to an analysis of their use conditions. Again, the paper’s broad contention is that privacy issues raised by vaccine passports can be adequately addressed through careful design and regulation.
  • The authors then discuss potential avenues for the implementation of vaccine passports, within the framework of Canadian federalism and its fragmented jurisdiction over healthcare and public health. As part of this discussion, we suggest some broad principles for the design of a vaccine passport regime, arguing that passport gating should be limited to non-essential services, and that wherever feasible, the unvaccinated should be accommodated with rapid testing.
Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas is Senior Research Associate & Adjunct Professor, Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics, University of Ottawa.

Coleen M. Flood

Coleen M. Flood is University of Ottawa Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, and Inaugural Director of the Centre for Health Law & Policy, University of Ottawa.

Vivek Krishnamurthy

Vivek Krishnamurthy is Samuelson-Glushko Professor of Law, University of Ottawa and Director of the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC).

Ryan Tanner

Ryan Tanner is PHD, JD, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa

Kumanan Wilson

Kumanan Wilson is Senior Scientist, Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute; Professor, Faculty of Medicine University of Ottawa