Quebec Premier François Legault, right, and then-Quebec Public Health Director Horacio Arruda leave a news conference in Montreal, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. Quebec is reporting 62 additional deaths linked to COVID-19 today, one day after the province’s public health director resigned. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Quebec to force unvaccinated to pay ‘significant’ financial penalty

First time in Canada for a financial penalty for people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Quebec has become the first province in Canada to announce a financial penalty for residents who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Adult Quebecers who won’t get vaccinated and don’t have a medical exemption will be forced to pay a health “contribution,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters on Tuesday. Legault said the amount of the penalty hasn’t been decided but will be “significant.”

About 10 per cent of adult Quebecers aren’t vaccinated, but they represent about half of all patients in intensive care, Legault said, adding that the unvaccinated should be forced to pay for the extra burden they are placing on the health-care system.

“I think right now it’s a question of fairness for the 90 per cent of the population who made some sacrifices,” Legault said. “I think we owe them this kind of measure.”

The government last week announced it would expand the vaccine passport system by requiring proof of vaccination to enter liquor and cannabis stores. Health Minister Christian Dube has said he was mulling extending the passport further, to shopping malls and personal care salons.

Legault said Tuesday, “Yes, we will continue to look at spreading the use of the vaccine passport, but I think we have to go further.”

The premier announced the new financial penalty shortly after introducing his new interim public health director, Dr. Luc Boileau, the head of a government health-care research institution called the Institut national d’excellence en sante et services sociaux.

Dr. Horacio Arruda resigned as public health director on Monday after the Quebec government faced weeks of criticism from the opposition and pundits for its handling of the latest wave of COVID-19. Quebec’s health-care system is under enormous stress from the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 patients, and the latest restrictions — including a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew — are some of the strictest in the country.

The opposition has said Arruda, who usually appeared in public alongside Dube and Legault and whose advice to the government was often delivered orally behind closed doors, was too close to political decision makers.

Earlier Tuesday, Quebec reported 62 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, pushing the total number of people killed by COVID-19 in the province to 12,028, the most in Canada. The Health Department said COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by 188, to 2,742, after 433 people were admitted to hospital in the previous 24 hours and 245 were discharged. The number of people in intensive care rose by seven, to 255.

Quebec reported 8,710 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, which were the result of more than 51,000 tests, 20 per cent of which came back positive.

—The Canadian Press

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