Shomporko Online News Desk: The discussion about whether COVID-19 vaccine passports are necessary continues, but it appears that some people are already looking for ways to get around the system.
Several stories have surfaced online of phoney immunization cards and passports being sold on the dark web for hundreds of dollars, with some being sold for as little as “the price of peanuts.”
For $18.98 on Amazon.ca, you can obtain a pack of ten blank CDC cards. Lanyards and card protectors are available for an additional fee.
Many people in Canada are concerned about how easy it will be to duplicate their proof of vaccination.
In Manitoba, inoculated residents receive an immunization card with a scannable QR code.
Meanwhile, vaccinated Ontarians are handed — or email — a sheet of paper with seemingly no security features, just the patient and doctor’s info.
“I think there’s a good reason to worry, but I’m not at all surprised,” said Karen Wendling, an associate professor at the University of Guelph who often discusses medical ethics.
“From a Canadian perspective, we can be worried that there are going to be non-vaccinated Americans trying to cross the border.”
Altering or recreating a legitimate document (like a vaccine card), with the intent of using it as real, is a federal crime.
“This can be liable to a variety of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada,” said SuJung Lee, a criminal defence lawyer at Daniel Brown Law.
“The most applicable, I would say, offence for these types of actions would probably be a forgery.”
Lee says this can land you between 18 months and 10 years behind bars. Possessing, using or trafficking the forged document would count as separate offences.
If the financial loss is involved, you can also be charged with fraud. That’s between two and 14 years behind bars if convicted, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Due to the devastating global impact of COVID-19, though, Lee suspects courts will go for maximum penalties to those found guilty.
“These types of offences, if they come to the forefront, is something that courts will probably take very very seriously…. They’ll want to signal to the community that (they) will not go unpunished.”
When asked if forged proof of COVID-19 vaccinations was used to enter the country, a spokesperson with the Canada Border Services Agency told Global News: “(CBSA) is aware that some travellers may attempt to use fraudulent documentation when seeking entry to Canada.”
In an email to Global on Tuesday, the CBSA added that 591 travellers arriving in Canada (237 travellers by air and 354 by land) were referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada for “issues related to their proof of vaccination.” This includes people whose proof of vaccination needed further verification, or if they did not meet required criteria, like vaccine date or vaccine type. Note that these numbers are between July 5, when proof of vaccine became required for Canadians and permanent resident travellers, and July 18.
The CBSA refused to specify how many people were suspected of having falsified immunization cards if any at all.
“Border services officers (BSO) are trained in examination techniques and use indicators, intelligence, and other information to determine a person’s admissibility to Canada,” the CBSA said when asked how border agents would be able to tell a real vaccine card from a fake one with no security features within the cards. This involves ensuring that the documentation needed to be found admissible is in order. or to meet the criteria for modified public health measures is valid and authentic.”