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TORONTO – Pub manager Crystal Meikle is used to adapting to changing business rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Ontario’s proof of vaccination policy, due to go into effect Wednesday, sprawls into new territory, she said, as workers will be responsible for asking customers to show they are immune. against the virus.

“Pushback is where I get a little nervous,” Meikle said during a recent afternoon shift at the Queen’s Head pub in east Toronto. “It’s the unknown of how someone is going to react.”

Last week, the province released guidelines for companies required to conduct audits. Customers of restaurants, nightclubs, gymnasiums, sports facilities and other venues must present a full vaccination receipt and ID. Doctors’ notes for medical exemptions will also be accepted.

Fines are on the table for companies that fail to follow controls and for customers who give false information. But businesses, bylaw officers, police forces and the province say enforcement will be soft until the impact of the policy begins to be felt on the ground – much of the bulk of the problem. work for the front-line staff of companies.

Several Ontario police services contacted by The Canadian Press said they would respond to security-related calls about threats or violence, but would not actively enforce or monitor compliance with the vaccination policy. .

A spokesperson for Ontario’s solicitor general said the province does not expect police to perform “routine compliance checks” of vaccination receipts.

Joe Couto, director of communications for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said police forces would wait for appeals about the policy before deciding to redeploy or adjust resources.

“The question that was put to me is, will the police need new resources or relocate resources to cope with the rollout of certification,” he said. “The short answer to that is we really don’t know, as the province is still developing not only its policies, but also how it will work in practice.”

Rules officers will likely be the enforcement agency responsible for issuing non-compliance tickets. In Toronto, the city said it will take an “educational approach” with businesses as the new rules are implemented. He asked people to be respectful and to call 311 for non-compliance issues.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor said inspectors would also visit the affected locations, “taking an educational approach first to help workers and the public stay safe and keep businesses open.”

In the field, companies have spent the past week determining how they would assign staff to the task of checking immunization status.

Sites that sell alcohol are used to checking IDs, but pub manager Meikle said the requirement for vaccine receipts could take some getting used to for staff and customers. .

She said the job could fall on employees who greet people in different sections, such as at the bar or when customers arrive to be seated.

People will have to show paper or digital vaccination receipts until next month, when the province promised a QR code with individuals’ vaccination records and an app for businesses to verify – which Meikle said. ‘she wished she had been ready for the launch of the policy.

“I think it would be a lot easier and more useful for us to manage,” she said of the QR code.

Gavin Holmes, owner of Gio Rana’s restaurant, said reception staff would check for proof of vaccination.

It is the last additional task staff must take on during the pandemic, but Holmes said a staff shortage in the industry makes it difficult to hire more people.

“Employing someone else would be great, but it’s just not doable at the moment,” he said in the dining room at his Toronto facility.

He said his company intended to comply with what was expected.

“We just take it all in our stride,” he said. “We fully support what we need to do as long as we can stay open.”

The staff juggler required will play out differently depending on the type of business.

Restaurants Canada Vice President James Rilett said some quick service establishments that typically don’t have someone working at the door are considering bringing another staff member every shift to check for proof of vaccination.

Those who can’t afford it are considering not opening their dining rooms at all, he said, adding that considerations are tough for restaurants already struggling with finances after a year of intermittent closings.

“They can’t afford it, but they really can’t afford not to be open either,” Rilett said over the phone.

Health Minister Christine Elliott and Toronto Mayor John Tory both said they didn’t expect non-compliance to be a major issue.

Meikle said she hopes her pub patrons respond well, as they did to previous rule changes. But she said the sensitive topic of vaccination will be a new conversation with many repeat customers.

“I guess we’ll cross this bridge when we get there,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 19, 2021.

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