Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is reviewing plans by Quebec to impose a tax on residents who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 without a medical exemption.
Quebec’s Premier François Legault on Tuesday announced that residents who decide not to get a coronavirus vaccine for nonmedical reasons would have to pay a health care tax, amid a new surge in coronavirus infections in the province.
“A health contribution will be charged to all adults (who) don’t want to get vaccinated. We are there now,” he told reporters. “Those who refuse to get the shot bring a financial burden to hospital staff and Quebecers. The 10% of the population can’t burden the 90%.”
On Wednesday, Trudeau said during a pandemic update that his administration is currently reviewing the plan and awaiting more details from the province.
“As we’ve said, incentives and strong measures — whether it’s vaccine passports, whether it’s requirements for travelers, whether it’s the requirement for public servants to be fully vaccinated — we have taken very strong measures in the past and they have worked in terms of keeping Canadians safe,” he told reporters.
“We will continue to look and work with the provinces and look at measures put forward,” Trudeau added, according to Canada’s CTV News.
Quebec has yet to release a timeline for the rollout of the measures, or how much the penalty would be, though Legault has said that 50 or 100 Canadian dollars ($40 or $80) wouldn’t be “significant” enough for him.
If enacted, the tax would be the first of its kind in North America.
During the briefing, the prime minister added that Quebec has assured the federal government that it would respect the key principle of the Canada Health Act, which is “to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.”
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos agreed with Trudeau’s remarks on “strong measures,” praising the effectiveness of vaccine mandates.
“The keyword here is benevolence. Both the language and the actions are there and designed to protect people,” he said.
“This is a severe disease, we want people to be protected against it. … No one, I believe, is thinking or certainly speaking of forcibly, physically vaccinating people in Canada,” Duclos added.