Ottawa eyes tasking airport security with vaccine verification for travellers

Ottawa eyes tasking airport security with vaccine verification for travellers

OTTAWA — Airport security agents may soon be screening more than your luggage.

The federal government is mulling handing responsibility for verifying passengers’ vaccination status to airport officers, rather than airlines — which hope to skip the headache.

Canadian carriers received three consultation papers from Transport Canada this week asking for feedback on putting an agency in charge of the proof of-vaccine validation process, according to three sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the Crown corporation known as CATSA that oversees passenger and baggage screening at airports, would take on the additional role in barely two weeks if the plan goes ahead following industry feedback.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that as of Oct. 30 all air, train and boat travellers aged 12 or older must be fully vaccinated, and have the documentation to prove it.

But a veil of uncertainty lingers over how that requirement will unfold, with carriers demanding answers on the patchwork of provincial systems and who will handle verification once a nationwide proof-of-vaccination platform and QR code come into effect, the timing for which is also unknown.

Airlines have been lobbying for CATSA to take the reins on vaccine checks at airports in what would amount to a shift from the current health protocol where carriers are responsible for checking passengers’ COVID-19 test results.

“Ultimately, verifying the legitimacy of people’s vaccination records should reside with government,” Andy Gibbons, head of government relations and regulatory affairs at WestJet Airlines, said in an interview.

“I can see the Calgary airport from here. You have four entry points for CATSA, and you have 90-some-odd gates across however many airlines,” added WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem.

“It is a much more efficient process and gets it into the hands of government agencies versus us as the airline to be verifying that.”

The government continues to sort out how to knit together 13 different provincial and territorial documentation regimes into a single passport-like certificate, complete with a QR code that can be screened across the country.