By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
No charges have been laid in Chatham-Kent with regard to Ontario’s vaccine passport.
But when it comes to the new legislation, there’s a whole lot of education going on.
According to the municipal CAO Don Shropshire, as with all new rules, there are plenty of questions and “lots of education.”
Shropshire said public health inspectors and municipal bylaw officers are out and about assisting businesses and explaining the rules.
“Hopefully everyone will come on board,” Shropshire said, stressing the sole purpose of the vaccine passport is to protect people.
Chatham-Kent Public Health communications officer Jeff Moco said proof of vaccination enforcement, which falls under the Reopening Ontario Act, is carried out jointly by CK Bylaw Enforcement staff and CK Public Health.
“At this time CK Public Health has not issued any charges relating to the proof of vaccination requirement since it began on Sept. 21,” Moco said.
A variety of polls and surveys show that Canadians are overwhelmingly in favour of the passports. An Angus Reid poll taken Sept. 7 shows support for the vaccine passport concept is on the rise. The poll revealed 75 per cent of people support proof of vaccination to attend a public event or gathering of over 50 people, while 70 per cent support a passport for attendance in public spaces such as restaurants and churches.
The poll showed 66 per cent approval for showing proof of vaccination to attend a workplace.
It’s still early days officials say, but it appears businesses are complying.
However, not everyone is in favour or asking patrons for proof of vaccination.
Some restaurants in Chatham-Kent have opted to close indoor dining and only provide takeout food, rather than ask patrons for proof of vaccination.
A Chatham gym owner is also against the passport and is attempting to get his business classified as essential to avoid the issue.
Not complying can come with a heavy price. Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said inspectors assess each case individually and subsequent penalties depend on the circumstances.
Initially, public health inspectors would lay a charge with a set fine. But that can be escalated to a court appearance for a repeat offender.
The court could impose a fine – normally around $1,000 – but can also be amended to reach as high as six-figures.
While there’s talk of people falsifying vaccine passport, no cases have surfaced in Chatham-Kent to date.
Currently a person has to show their personal ID and proof of vaccination for COVID-19. That approach will suffice until the province rolls out a QR verification code beginning Oct. 22.