After sustained pressure by True North and its readers, the New Brunswick government has announced it is no longer allowing grocery stores to bar unvaccinated Canadians.
The announcement came Friday in a government news release on interim COVID measures directed at slowing the Omicron variant.
“An option allowing stores that sell groceries to ask patrons 12 and over for proof of vaccination, instead of implementing distancing requirements, is being removed from the province’s mandatory order.”
The announcement goes on to state that “the original intention was to give stores a choice, and that those choosing the proof-of-vaccination option would offer delivery or curbside pickup; it was never the intention for anyone to believe they could not access groceries.”
The reversal comes two weeks after the New Brunswick government’s ‘winter action plan’ gave grocery stores the option of demanding vaccine passports from anyone over 12.
True North had immediately contacted MPs, the New Brunswick Premier’s Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, Opposition leader Erin O’Toole’s office, the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick caucus and other politicians for comment.
People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier was the only politician who responded immediately, asking the government if it had gone “full fascist,” and declaring that banning people from grocery stores was “a red line.”
Bernier was followed over a week later by three New Brunswick Conservative MPs – John Williamson, Rob Moore and Richard Bragdon – who praised retailers for choosing not to ban people based on their vaccination status.
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) had also written a warning letter to the New Brunswick justice minister about the policy on Dec. 7, which it claimed violated fundamental Human Rights.
The JCCF followed up with a letter to the City of Fredericton on Thursday when it learned that Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market had opted for the vaccine passports. The farmers market, which did not respond to True North’s inquiries, was met with backlash online.
The New Brunswick government has, however, stated that “(o)ther retail operations that do not sell groceries, along with salons and spas, can continue to ask for proof of vaccination or ensure distancing.”