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Vaccine passport shut down at Edmonton city council after Alberta ends REP

The City of Edmonton will not implement its own form of the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) after the province discontinued the proof of vaccine system this week.

At a special meeting on Friday afternoon, City Manager Andre Corbould said proof of vaccination was no longer as meaningful as a public health restriction given breakthrough infections in the Omicron wave after consultation with stakeholders and medical experts.

"Showing proof of vaccination does not have the same level of effectiveness at reducing transmission as it did during the Delta wave," Corbould told council.

"We believe the REP offers more of a perception of safety than actual enhanced safety for Edmontonians."

The city manager added that REP worked effectively when part of a layered defence against COVID-19 that included measures like masking and reduced capacities for venues. Corbould said that a vaccine passport program alone would likely have little impact with the province ending those restrictions.

Corbould said Explore Edmonton surveyed stakeholders, including hotels, attractions, and festival organizers, with 36 per cent of respondents supporting keeping REP. In comparison, 40 per cent did not want the city to implement its own version.

Additionally, Corbould said that other regional municipalities were not planning to implement their own REP, leaving Edmonton as an outlier should it have chosen to maintain a vaccine passport system.

The city manager said that by not creating a city REP, individual businesses or organizations in Edmonton would still have the ability to adopt their own rules to protect staff and patrons.

Council voted to only receive the recommendations from administration as information and not to implement further bylaws or take further actions.

The vote was 9-4, with councillors Michael Janz, Jo-Anne Wright, Ashley Salvador, and Anne Stevenson representing the votes wanting council to take further action.


"We seriously looked at the possibility of having an Edmonton-based REP," Mayor Amarjeet Sohi told reporters Friday afternoon.

"We found it was not going to be effective. It would not be able to be enforceable, and it's not going to achieve the results that we want to achieve. That is why we decided not to pursue it further."

Sohi said the city's mask bylaw remains in place, requiring anyone over the age of two to wear a face-covering while in an indoor public space, on transit, and in public vehicles for hire.

That bylaw goes above, and beyond what the province has issued, Sohi said. As of Monday, children 12 and under and youth at schools will not be required to wear masks.

City council passed a motion on Friday tasking administration to explore options and the feasibility of installing HEPA filtration at city recreation centres and facilities.

"We are going to do what we can in our capacity," Sohi said. "We are at the tail end of the pandemic, hopefully.

"The majority of Edmontonians have done their part. And if we continue to do so, hopefully, we will be out of this pandemic soon." 

Jennifer Rice, ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi councillor, said the REP served its purpose of increasing vaccination rates and that now is the time for council to listen to the medical experts and provincial government.

"Our public safety is important for everybody," she said. "I do not believe we should make medical decisions related to the health of our constituents that go against what our medical advisor is telling us."

In his consultation with constituents, ward pihêsiwin councillor Tim Cartmell said that they were split evenly between supporting the city continuing some form of the REP and following the province in removing vaccine passport requirements.

Cartmell added that many businesses have faced backlash when enforcing the provincial program and that it was often frontline servers and staff who received hate or abuse.

"We have to weigh the risk of creating those really bad situations against the risk of the ongoing value of a passport program," he said.

For Salvador, representing ward Métis, many Edmontonians relied on and appreciated the REP.

"But I recognize that we as a city might not be able to implement a program that would adequately protect Edmontonians," Salvador said. "We do not have the same force of law as a provincial government."

Anirniq councillor Erin Rutherford echoed Salvador's sentiments, saying she was disappointed that the provincial government did not collaborate with municipalities when deciding to ease restrictions.

"I am feeling frustration with having to try, within this role, to consider public health in the gap of a province that won't do so," she said. "Municipalities absolutely have a role in public health. But like many other issues we are facing as a society, cannot go it alone and be effective." Top Stories

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