Getting on a plane tomorrow? Here’s what you need to know about new vaccination requirements

The federal government is announcing new exemptions and a grace period for unvaccinated foreign nationals today as it releases new details about its vaccine mandate for travellers that comes into effect tomorrow, CBC News has learned. 

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is holding an announcement at noon at Toronto Pearson Airport about Transport Canada’s final orders and guidance that have been issued to airlines and railways following consultations, a government source told CBC News. 

Starting at 3 a.m. on Oct. 30, all travellers in Canada aged 12 and older must be fully vaccinated before boarding planes, trains or cruise ships in this country. 

If travellers have started the vaccination process but not yet completed it, they can show proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test until Nov. 29. As of Nov. 30, they will not be eligible to travel, except for limited exemptions.

The source said one of the exemptions that will be announced today is for emergencies and remote communities so they can access essential services.

Also new today is that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) will support operators by confirming vaccination status. 

WATCH | What to know about required vaccines for travellers:

What to know about required vaccines for travellers in Canada

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra joins CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton to discuss his government’s new vaccine mandate for federal workers and people travelling by train or plane. Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones responds to the new vaccine mandate for travellers, sharing his airline’s concerns about the new measures. 15:13

Grace period for unvaccinated foreign travellers leaving Canada

Alghabra will also announce new transitional measures for unvaccinated foreign nationals who don’t live in Canada but who entered the country before Oct. 30, the source said. They will have until Feb. 28 to show proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test in order to board a flight taking them out of the country. 

The government already said in August that all employers in federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors are required by tomorrow to roll out mandatory vaccination policies for their organization.

After a short transition period, companies must guarantee staff, including those who work at restaurants and retail stores at airports, are fully vaccinated or they’ll be forced off the job. 

Today’s announcement will not include an update on the government’s work on a standardized vaccine certificate.

The federal government is still working on a standardized vaccine certificate for Canadians to use while travelling, rather than relying on each province’s proof of vaccination. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Alghabra told CBC’s Rosemary Barton earlier this month that the federal government is continuing to work with provinces and territories to come up with a standardized certificate that would likely include a QR code for travellers to use at the airport.

Alghabra said then that he expected the project to be completed in a matter of weeks. 

The vaccine mandate for travellers was one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election promises during the campaign. His deputy, Chrystia Freeland, has said that while door-knocking, the Liberals heard strong support for vaccine mandates.

Roughly 72 per cent of Canada’s total population is fully vaccinated.

The Conservatives have argued against vaccine mandates, saying it encourages Canadians to get vaccinated, but it’s a matter of freedom of choice. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has accused Trudeau of politicizing the issue of vaccines, creating division in the country.

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