Ontario to end vax passports, some businesses persist

mayfair theatre
Mayfair theatre in Old Ottawa South will continue requiring proof of vaccination for guests. Photo by OBJ.

Some establishments in Ontario will maintain proof-of-vaccine requirements even after the province ends its vaccine certificate system on Tuesday, saying they want to ensure that people feel safe and comfortable coming through their doors.

The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa said its proof-of-vaccination policy is here to stay until a future date that has "yet to be determined." 

"Visitors have been really positive and pleased that we have adhered to the highest levels of safety, indicating that this is a key part of their satisfaction with visiting our museum," John Swettenham, the museum's vice-president of public affairs and chief marketing officer, wrote in a statement.

Swettenham said the museum is also maintaining "timed ticketing to help manage flow and capacity." 

ByTowne Cinema in Ottawa said in a tweet that it intends to maintain vaccine passport requirements, saying that although this was a "difficult decision," it was made with guest and staff safety in mind.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing closures and mandates have made it extremely difficult for us to continue operations over the last two years," the tweet said. "We will continue to monitor the changing landscape as best we can, while also respecting the comfort and safety of both our members and our team."

Another Ottawa movie theatre is following suit. Mayfair theatre in Old Ottawa South also announced in a tweet that it will continue requiring proof of vaccination to "do our part to ensure a safe return to normal."

"It's been a tough and confusing time here in Ottawa recently, but there are reasons to be optimistic as well," said the tweet, with an acknowledgement to the theatre's upcoming 90th anniversary.

Some public health experts are advising establishments to keep proof-of-vaccine requirements – and commending ones that have already decided to do so. 

Niagara’s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, said as Ontario lifts many of the provincewide protections put in place to stop the spread of the virus, keeping people safe from COVID-19 will "heavily depend" on the actions of individuals and organizations. 

Hirji said Niagara Region Public Health "strongly supports" employers who continue to ask patrons for proof of vaccination. 

"We commend them for their ongoing commitment to the health and safety of their customers, employees and community, and encourage residents to continue to support them with their business," he said.

Hirji said that while some residents may feel the risks of COVID-19 are acceptable, they should remember that many community members may still be at greater risk and acknowledge that those individuals and their loved ones may wish to continue to take "greater precaution." 

"Let’s support each other in enabling everyone to make individual choices around safety from COVID-19, and not oppose businesses who offer that level of safety to some of their clients," he said.

At a recent news conference, London's acting medical officer of health, Dr. Alex Summers, said he "strongly supports the ongoing use of proof-of-vaccination policies" in settings where people gather or work in close proximity. 

"Especially during this peak of continued ongoing Omicron transmission in our community, these policies, I think, particularly ones that support and encourage third dose and booster dose uptake, are to be applauded," Summers said.

- With additional reporting by OBJ staff