On April 22, the premiers of Ontario and Quebec called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to introduce stricter regulations at both land and air border crossings in order to further reduce non-essential travel during Canada’s third wave of COVID-19. Premiers Ford and Legault requested that the federal government cut back on incoming international flights while also taking action to close loopholes at the Canada-US land border that have allowed some travellers to avoid quarantine. Their letter to the federal government said:
“The actions your government has taken to date are essential in continuing to limit the importation and spread of new variants of the virus. We fully support current measures taken, such as requiring a negative test from all passengers prior to boarding a flight or arriving at a land border, limiting the number of international entry points, and instituting new testing and quarantine measures upon arrival, but more must be done. To protect the lives and well-being of our citizens, to ensure the health system is not further stretched, and to give time for the vaccine roll-out to protect the people Canadians, we need to [sic] the federal government to further strengthen measures at air and land borders.”
At this point, only air travellers into Canada are subject to the hotel quarantine requirement whereas travellers by land are not subject to the hotel quarantine. This has led to Canadians exploiting the loophole. Instead of flying directly into Canada, travellers coming to Canada are flying into the United States to border cities like Buffalo and crossing the border by land in order to avoid the hotel quarantine. The hotel quarantine rule has been controversial due to the costs to individual travellers, but it continues to be enforced as more than 200 travellers have been fined since the onset of the rule. The fine for violating the hotel quarantine requirement is $3,000, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Regarding borders within Canada, last week Ontario announced that it would be prohibiting non-essential interprovincial travel into the province. This interprovincial border regulation is to be achieved by setting up checkpoints at the borders with Manitoba and Quebec. Internationally, it was announced on April 21 that the border between Canada and the United States will remain closed to non-essential travel with the same restrictions until at least May 21. The restrictions have been and will continue to be updated month to month, so be sure to continue to look out for announcements regarding the situation. The border is likely not going to open to non-essential travel anytime soon, as the most optimistic projections have the border opening late this summer.
Just this week, the province has also asked the federal government to require mandatory PCR testing for anyone travelling by air to Ontario from other parts of the country.
When it comes to international travel, the Premiers of Ontario and Quebec were not the only voices encouraging a reduction in travel as many were calling for a suspension of flights to countries that are struggling with fighting COVID-19 variants, such as India and Brazil. Other countries, like the U.S. and the U.K, have banned flights from Brazil and India in recent weeks.
Now, Canada has followed suit by banning passenger flights into Canada from India and Pakistan for 30 days. The restriction started on April 22, and data shows that people travelling from India have made up 50% of the positive COVID-19 tests gathered from air travellers, despite India only accounting for 20% of the travel into Canada. At this time, there are no direct flights from Brazil into Canada, and the Canadian government has indicated it will not hesitate to ban further commercial flights if there is data to support banning those flights. It is likely this ban will remain in effect for longer than 30 days, so if you are looking to travel to any of the impacted areas, make sure to keep updated on the situation to see when the ban will be lifted.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We are experts in successfully guiding clients through the immigration process. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.