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by Eden Debebe

The Canadian Government is reopening its borders for non-essential travel starting September 7th, but the rules and regulations surrounding the announcement have experts warning the move could create a discriminatory ‘two-tier system’.


The new exemption will apply to fully vaccinated travelers who have received one of Health Canada’s approved vaccines along with proof of either a negative COVID-19 molecular test result taken within 72 hours of their trip or a positive COVID-19 molecular test taken between 14 and 180 days before their arrival in Canada.

Though the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions come as great news for some, the announcement stands as another setback for countless others who have already been immunized with a non-approved vaccine.

“In my own family, I had my husband who went with Pfizer and I went with Sinopharm. And that position would have been different if I knew that it would impact my travel to Canada,” said Shweta Subram, a Canadian who moved to Dubai with her husband right before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The couple had plans to travel back to Canada this summer after being vaccinated, but soon realized Shweta’s choice to get China’s Sinopharm vaccine would require her to stay isolated in quarantine for more than half of their trip – a luxury the couple said they just can’t afford.

“In my case, for example, I have older parents in Canada,” Subram said.

“A lot of times I feel like, you know, it’s been two years since I haven’t seen them. So, you know, it’s disheartening for people like us that Canada has put such rules into place.”

Shweta Subram (left) and her husband Shekhar Prasad (Instagram: @shekhar.prasad)

As of July 19th 2021,  the Canadian government has approved four COVID-19 vaccines for use: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). 

It’s a narrow list University of Toronto Indigenous and Refugee Health Faculty Lead Dr. Anna Banerji says excludes millions of people who had little choice when it came to what they were vaccinated with.

If the vaccine is approved through the World Health Organization, it means that it’s gone through some rigorous process of analysis to show that it’s safe and effective, that we should be accepting those vaccines,” Banerji said.



Despite public criticism from world leaders even before an official announcement was released, Canada’s Minister of International Development Karina Gould said Canada has “not felt any impact whatsoever” in international relations due to their border restrictions.

“I think most countries at this point recognize that the situation is quite fluid and every country is making decisions that are right for them,” said Gould.

The World Health Organization has warned any border reopening that only applies to people immunized from a short list of approved vaccines could create a two-tier system in the country, a fear the health agency says is already undermining confidence in the life-saving vaccines.

“It’s prioritizing profit and patents over the lives of people, especially those in resource poor parts of the world,” Banerji said.

“A lot of these countries can’t afford Pfizer and Moderna, so they have vaccines that have worked and are approved by the World Health Organization and really, they seem to be functional, effective, but cheaper.”

In a statement to OMNI News, Health Canada said ‘decisions on which vaccines will be eligible for future inclusion on the list will be based on science’ and that the list of accepted vaccines ‘may expand as evidence and health situations continue to evolve’.