It’s now in effect: For the first time, there is a requirement to board a plane departing from Canadian airports (no, there has never been any before). Vaccination is mandatory to board any flight (not just domestic flights). Nothing changes if you are vaccinated… but if you are not, your travel options have been greatly reduced.
So here’s the ultimate guide about the extreme measure that is mandatory vaccination for all flights, which makes the unvaccinated prisoners of their own country.
(It is a measure that Canada is quite possibly the only one in the world to have, by the way.)
6 key facts about Canada’s mandatory vaccination requirement
Here are the 6 highlights in an infographic.
And here’s the text version:
- No changes to entry rules (completely separate)
- New requirement to board any plane, train, or ship departing FROM Canada
- Any plane means any plane: Domestic and international flights too
- Being fully vaccinated is mandatory
- Only very limited exemptions exist
- Children under the age of 12 years and 4 months are exempt
Note that the government has confirmed that unvaccinated Canadians entering the country will not have a special exemption to catch a connecting flight or long-distance train. They can board regional trains and any buses though, as these modes of transport are much safer🤡.
(Foreigners, new permanent residents, and refugees who are not vaccinated will be allowed to catch a connecting flight as long as it’s in the 24 hours after their entry into Canada.)
Before we look at each of the 6 elements more closely…
To be very clear, absolutely nothing has changed if you are fully vaccinated (as long as you are considered fully vaccinated by Canada’s definition of course, which is different than some provinces’ definition; see point #4 below for details).
How to travel (step by step)
For those who prefer a simple step-by-step summary (and have not yet read our ultimate guide to pandemic travel).
If you are fully vaccinated
You can travel by following the same 3 steps for any trip:
- Show proof of vaccination to board a plane (see point #4)
- Follow the entry rules for your destination (might be none)
- Get a pre-departure test to enter Canada when you return and also soon you will need do the free test on arrival (and isolate until you get the results)
It’s that simple.
If you are not vaccinated
You can travel with these 5 options (well 6, if you count getting vaccinated as an option):
- Take advantage of the impractical way to fly out of Canada (on pause due to omicron; article to come soon)
- Fly through a remote community
- Travel within Canada by road
- Take a private plane
- Take a private boat
We included a detailed section about this below, because even if we are fully vaccinated… the fact is that rationally, traveling without being vaccinated is not magically more dangerous now than it was 1 month or 1 year ago when it was 100% allowed.
Why the requirement was implemented
If you care to know, it’s probably not for safety.
Because clearly, the government doesn’t really believe that having unvaccinated travelers on a plane is risky: All foreigners are allowed to sit on planes to Canada and planes departing from Canada without being vaccinated (or even tested!!!).
Yes, transits in Canada are wide open.
And without any requirement. Since the beginning of the pandemic. That has not changed.
All passengers transiting through Canada are exempt from this new requirement to be fully vaccinated (and even if they are unvaccinated they’ve always been exempt from the pre-departure test and still are).
But also, for safety, a molecular test could easily be accepted as an alternative. Because a traveler who is unvaccinated but tested is possibly less risky than a traveler who is vaccinated (we don’t need to be tested, but we can still be infected and transmit the virus even with our vaccine).
Unvaccinated travelers who enter Canada have been tested within 72 hours and are retested upon arrival: 1% test positive according to government data. It is not unreasonable to believe that vaccinated travelers could be 1% positive as well since they are not tested. And thus be just as much of a risk than unvaccinated travelers (who would be tested).
In short, maybe the goal is not really to protect us but to encourage vaccination and/or to punish the unvaccinated.
That could be debated (well, in a hypothetical world where a rational debate was still possible). But the government should at least be honest and stop pretending it’s for safety if it keeps letting foreigners onboard the same planes without being vaccinated or tested!
Details of Canada’s mandatory vaccination requirement
Here are all the details you need to know.
1. No changes to Canada’s entry rules (completely separate)
This new requirement has absolutely nothing to do with Canada’s entry rules. No connection. There is absolutely nothing changing in terms of Canada’s entry rules for unvaccinated Canadians.
Non-vaccinated Canadian travelers can still enter Canada, regardless of when and how they enter.
And this new requirement has even less to do with other countries’ entry rules… since they are other independent countries.
2. New requirement to board any plane, train, or ship departing FROM Canada
This is a whole new step in the travel rules actually: It’s only a requirement to board a plane departing from a Canadian airport.
Here is another simple way to look at this addition of a new step.
You only had 2 steps to travel since the beginning of the pandemic, as explained in the ultimate guide to pandemic travel:
- Check the entry rules for the places you are going to and follow them
- Check the entry rules for your return to Canada and follow them
It was simple. There were only the destination’s entry rules and no other requirements, contrary to what many people seemed to think (and no, airlines don’t have requirements either; they just apply the countries’ rules).
Now, it’s just one more step, it’s not that complicated to understand either.
(And even if it was complicated to understand or plan a trip, it would still be worth it compared to not traveling if you’re really a traveler who likes to travel… or even compared to traveling within your province in my humble opinion…)
Here’s the new simple step in bold:
- Check the rules to board a plane departing from a Canadian airport and follow them
- Check the entry rules for the places you are going to and follow them
- Check the entry rules for your return to Canada and follow them
So, now you need to be fully vaccinated to fly.
3. Any plane means any plane: Domestic and international flights included
There are 3 types of trips affected (all departing FROM Canada obviously):
- Marine vessels
For planes, it’s the same thing the government has been saying since the beginning: It will apply to take ANY flight departing from a Canadian airport.
NOT just domestic flights. For once (which is rare with this government), it was very clear.
Flytrippers has been telling you since literally day 1 after the press conference in August that this new rule will apply to all flights departing from a Canadian airport. There was NEVER any mention of it applying to just domestic flights by the way, I really don’t know where everyone got that idea.
(Well, even several major media outlets wrote articles in a way that seems to have been confusing from the beginning…)
Hence the importance of following Flytrippers as travel experts who are 100% focused on travel rules and therefore understand them better than almost everyone, clearly.
For trains, the vaccination requirement applies to all VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains.
For marine vessels, local ferries are EXCLUDED. The vaccination requirement only applies to large vessels whose itineraries are over 24 hours in duration. Rules for the resumption of cruise ship travel in Canada for the Spring of 2022 are in the process of being developed.
4. Being fully vaccinated is mandatory
The most important thing to understand about travel rules is that each country makes its own rules and they vary greatly: Nothing is harmonized.
It’s the same thing within the country actually. Just because you are fully vaccinated according to your province does not mean that you are fully vaccinated according to Canada (for example, one dose and one infection is considered vaccinated by Québec, but not by Canada).
Canada has its own definition of “fully vaccinated” and it is obviously the only one that counts since this requirement is a requirement imposed by Canada to board a plane in Canada.
This is who is considered “fully vaccinated” by Canada.
t’s very simple:
- You need to have been vaccinated with one of the 7 WHO-approved vaccines
- Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), Sinopharm, Sinovac, or COVAXIN
- Mixed doses are accepted
- You need to have received all required doses
- 1 dose for Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
- 2 doses for all other vaccines
- You need to have received the last required dose at least 14 full days prior
- If you got vaccinated on the 1st, you are fully vaccinated only on the 16th
- You need to have proof in English, French, or with a certified translation
- Paper or digital formats are both accepted
- You can have received your vaccine anywhere in the world
- As long as you meet the above criteria
Proving your vaccination is very simple.
Any proof in English or French is accepted (or with a certified translation), whether it is a paper or digital version. We explained to you in our article on the new “Canadian” vaccine passport for travel that many people are worried about this for nothing.
I share a detailed post about the experience, as my recent flight to Louisiana was my first time flying with a requirement just to board the plane itself, after 41 flights during the pandemic where the only requirements were those imposed by my destinations.
5. Exemptions from Canada’s mandatory vaccination rule
For travelers over the age of 12 years and 4 months, here are the known exemptions at this time:
- Passengers transiting in Canada
- Indigenous peoples and Northerners in remote communities
- Canadians who need to travel for an “emergency”
- Canadians with “very limited” medical reasons
- Foreign nationals who normally reside outside of Canada
Passengers transiting through Canada
As mentioned, passengers transiting through Canada by air, whether they are Canadians or foreigners, do not need to be vaccinated (or even tested).
This exemption is what actually what created the lesser-known but impractical way for unvaccinated Canadians to fly out of the country that I mentioned earlier…
More info below.
Indigenous peoples and Northerners in remote communities
Another way to be allowed to fly “for any reason” without being vaccinated is to move to (or fly through) a remote community.
Here is the Government’s explanation for this exemption (emphasis is mine):
“The Government of Canada is engaging with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories to ensure that travellers from remote communities who are not fully vaccinated are still able to travel for any reason“
See below for an example.
This exemption not only allows avoiding the vaccination requirement but also avoiding the test as an alternative. At least when departing from northern airports.
When departing towards a northern airport, the tests are provided free of charge at the airport!
It is not clear if all Canadian taxpayers are subsidizing this cost (if the government is “paying” for the tests) or if only travelers are subsidizing it in their airfare (if the airline is “paying” for the tests).
Canadians who need to travel for an “emergency”
The word “emergency” is very subjective and broad. They did not give any details. In fact, this exemption is only listed on the French language site, not on the English site.
Maybe it is a very vague exemption… or a very specific one. Or a non-existing one? Who knows.
Could leaving Canada end up being included as an emergency trip? Many legal experts doubt that preventing people from leaving a country is even doable, so this would be one way to allow it. To be continued.
Canadians with “very limited” medical reasons
All Canadians who have a valid medical reason for not getting vaccinated are obviously exempt.
No additional details are provided by the government. In fact, they offloaded the issue to airlines. Maybe some of them will be less strict than others…
Foreign nationals who normally reside outside of Canada
Provided they entered before October 30, unvaccinated foreign nationals (only vaccinated foreign nationals can enter for tourism since September 7, but there were plenty of various exemptions throughout the pandemic that still exist) will be able to leave without being vaccinated.
They haven’t specified exactly how a foreigner can prove that they “normally reside outside of Canada.”
So depending on the criteria that are still unknown (can you just provide any address in another country?), the ≈ 2 million Canadians with dual citizenship may not have any more rights than their fellow Canadians and could really be stuck here too.
Not sure their second country’s government finds that measure reasonable.
It’s not clear why it’s too risky for a foreigner who entered after October 30 to fly out without being vaccinated but it’s not too risky for those who entered before October 30. The Science™ strikes again.
Finally, this is the only part of this whole requirement that has a known end date: The exemption for foreigners is until February 28. After that, they will no longer be allowed to fly either and will be imprisoned here apparently (assuming there are no legal challenges).
6. Children under 12 years and 4 months of age are exempt
Children under the age of 12 years and 4 months are exempt from Canada’s new vaccination requirement to fly. They still do not need a test to board a plane, just like since day one.
That “4 months” part is new too.
It’s to give a certain amount of time to get children vaccinated once they are eligible (not as flexible as the USA, which exempts all under-18s from their vaccination requirement for entry, as do many countries, but it’s better than no buffer at all).
On the other hand, now that Health Canada has made children eligible for the vaccine, it may become a requirement for them too very quickly, but nothing has been announced about that. There will almost certainly be at least a 4 month grace period, if not more. To be continued.
Please note that the quarantine exemption for unvaccinated children who enter Canada applies for those under 12 precisely, not 12 and 4 months. I’ll say it again: Every rule is completely separate, even if it’s the same country. It’s another rule, so it’s different. The principle is easy to understand.
You can read our ultimate guide of travel rules for children.
5 ways to travel without being vaccinated
Getting vaccinated is by far the easiest way to simplify travel rules.
But here are 5 other options that are still available even for those who don’t think they meet the conditions for the formal exemptions and don’t want to be vaccinated.
Of course, you can also just wait for the end of the requirement: Apparently, the measure is temporary (to be confirmed).
1. Take advantage of the impractical way to fly out of Canada
Yes, there was a little-known way to fly out of Canada without being vaccinated (or even tested).
It was certainly not very practical, but it was possible.
It’s on pause after recent changes due to the omicron variant, but as soon as it’s available once again, we’ll share it (sign up for our free travel newsletter to be the first to get all our content).
2. Fly through a remote community
Ethically, it’s debatable whether you should fly through a remote airport to be allowed to fly. That’s subjective.
What’s objective, is that the government rules allow it.
What the government rules say is that you could fly to a remote community without being vaccinated, the airline will even provide a free test for you to do so. Then, you can fly from a remote community to anywhere in Canada with that same test.
For example, if you live in Montreal and want to fly to Vancouver, you could fly Montreal to Kuujjuaq and then Kuujjuaq to Vancouver, since flying to and from a remote community is allowed without being vaccinated.
Ethically, it’s up to you to determine if you are comfortable flying through remote communities just to be able to fly within Canada, because Transport Canada media relations confirmed this is only allowed to fly within Canada, not internationally.
These plane tickets are often quite expensive too (unless you use Aeroplan points, as some remote destinations are sweet spots of the new program).
What is clear is that this is not very practical, and certainly not very affordable in most cases. But it is possible at least if you want to fly within Canada.
3. Travel within Canada by road
Flytrippers will always encourage international travel first, for the culture shock (and the lower cost).
But there is no entry requirement to enter many provinces by car, even without being vaccinated.
Also, travel by bus is not included in this new requirement. I’ll add another science sidenote: It’s well-known that the virus cannot be transmitted in a bus, even if they do not have the powerful HEPA filters that airplanes have🤡.
So unvaccinated travelers can board all buses (or ferries). No test is required either.
4. Take a private plane
Private flights are exempt from the vaccination requirement, as long as they do not use the secure zone of a commercial airport.
It is prohibitively expensive, but perhaps a new (cheaper) private flight service will develop for unvaccinated Canadians. If there is demand, the market always provides as they say (unless of course government regulation disrupts market forces as it often loves to do).
5. Take a private boat
You can’t leave the country by car or on foot, as the USA will require vaccination as soon as their land border reopens on November 8.
But it is possible to go around the USA by boat to get to countries that are open to unvaccinated Canadians.
Outlook for future travel rules
Trudeau liked to score political points with this measure during the campaign, saying that it was absolutely vital to implement this.
So vital that he didn’t implement it before the election (inaction that has put us all at risk by his logic) and so vital they took over 2 months after the election to implement it… That means that either everyone was at grave risk since then and he didn’t do anything about it, or that he might have exaggerated a bit…
But that’s the legendary slowness of this government, we’ve seen it from the start of the pandemic (they took 6 months to set up something as simple as temperature checks in airports and over a year to force airlines to refund customers when the EU and US did that in a month).
We’ll have to get used to it, because enough people in precisely the right arbitrary imaginary lines voted for them (they did not even win the most votes in their useless election in the middle of a pandemic).
Expect the travel rules decision process not to change too much: It’s just not true that science is what guides this government on the travel file. Anyone who knows anything about travel and has been following this closely for the last year knows that’s factually wrong.
If they really wanted to protect everyone on board their flights, they would also impose mandatory testing since the science seems to say that even vaccinated people can transmit the virus…
And most importantly, they would stop unvaccinated foreigners from being allowed on flights to and from Canada without even being tested (for transits).
The positive side of this is that maybe with the election out of the way, they’ll stop making travel rules based on media headlines and base them on facts instead. Maybe that’s too optimistic though.
It took a while, but they finally followed their own committee of scientific experts’ recommendation of abolishing the ineffective quarantine hotels. Maybe they’ll continue with their announced plan to further loosen travel restrictions. Who knows.
That panel of experts also said pre-departure testing was “excessive” and recommended removing that requirement over 6 months ago. The government has not followed the experts’ advice yet.
In any case, Flytrippers will continue to keep you informed of all the details as soon as they are announced.
Background of the mandatory vaccination rule
For those who are interested in this rule’s history, this new measure had been announced in mid-August just before a useless election was called in the middle of a pandemic.
(That day we had said it was a useless election, but with the results being almost identical to the previous parliament, our apologies: It was extremely useless is what we should have said instead.)
That’s really all the government said on the topic: Mandatory vaccination for all flights before the end of October.
On October 1, then Health Minister Patty Hajdu reconfirmed in a press conference that the end of October timeline still stood, but no details were provided.
On October 6, most details about this measure were officially announced, including the grace period.
On October 29, a few more details about exemptions were confirmed in another press conference.
And finally, the measure came into effect on October 30 at 3 AM (Eastern time).
On November 30, the grace period (that allowed for a molecular test to be presented instead of proof of vaccination and that allowed airlines to not even verify any of the 2) ended quietly without any other announcements.
Want to get all the coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers?
The requirement to be vaccinated to board a plane departing from a Canadian airport is now in effect since November 30. Canada might possibly be the only country in the world with such an extreme rule—or at the very least one of the very few.
What would you like to know about Canada’s new vaccination requirement to fly? Tell us in the comments below.
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