Cross-border families can now reunite under new exemption
OTTAWA -- Effective at midnight, immediate family members of citizens or permanent residents who are foreign nationals can enter Canada to be reunited, under a new limited exemption to the current border restrictions.
This new policy, announced by the federal government on Monday, will allow immediate family members from the United States, as well as from other countries, to be able to enter Canada under a series of stipulations.
Eligible immediate family members will be spouses, common-law partners, dependent children and their children, parents, and legal guardians. In order to be allowed in, the family members must have a plan to stay in Canada for at least 15 days, and they will have to self-quarantine for 14 days as soon as they enter the country.
The family member in Canada who will be welcoming their loved one in will have to confirm they have a suitable place for their family to self-isolate for the first 14 days of their stay, where they will be able to access food and medication. Their place of quarantine cannot be where they would have contact with a vulnerable person such as a senior or someone with pre-existing medical conditions, unless that person consents.
It will be possible for foreign nationals with immediate family in Canada to come for 14 days or less, but they need to prove that their reason to come is not discretionary and that they can comply with the quarantine.
"To be clear, the immediate family exemption does not mean the border will now be open to weekend travellers, or those seeking just to attend a personal or social gathering. For people traveling from abroad, they must still have a valid visa or Electronic Travel Authorization,” said Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino.
"The purpose of this measure is not to allow people to come and go into Canada whenever they like, but rather to help Canadian families reunite during this unprecedented time,” he said.
In first making the announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized the ongoing health and safety concerns about reigniting a second wave of COVID-19 by letting in people from abroad, and warned of serious penalties if the rules are not followed.
“All this is difficult and frustrating, and longer than we hoped it would be in many ways, but at the same time we know that the cost of having to return into social isolation, return into lockdown because of a massive resurgence is not one that anyone wants to bear, which is why we are being very cautious going forward,” Trudeau said.
Nearing three full months since the spread of the novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic and a series of border and travel restrictions were put in place, this is the first move the federal government is making towards loosening the rules.
Mendicino vowed that the government will be monitoring closely the impacts of this new exemption, and said that the decision to grant this allowance was made in collaboration with public health experts and the provinces and territories.
“COVID-19 remains a concern and we must continue to take measures at the border that are necessary from spreading it, and the measures today represent an incremental, a responsible and a thoughtful response towards that objective,” Mendicino said.
In a statement, the CBSA said that the new exemption comes into effect June 8 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Current border measures will remain in effect, including refusing admission to anyone who exhibits any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Every person who enters Canada will have to provide their contact information to a border officer, so that the Public Health Agency of Canada can follow up to ensure the Quarantine Act rules are being obeyed.
The immediate families of temporary residents in Canada—such as those on student or work visas—are not eligible to enter under this policy.
TRAVEL MEASURES IN PLACE
On March 17, Canada announced it was shutting the border to international travellers, specifically non-Canadian citizens, with the exception of permanent residents, the immediate family members of Canadian citizens, diplomats, air crews. Those initial restrictions did not apply to U.S. citizens.
Though just days later, on March 21, Canada and the U.S. closed their shared border to all non-essential or “discretionary” travel. That agreement to restrict tourism and other visitors has been extended every month since, with the current extension in effect until June 21 at least. The agreement as it stands exempts the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border.
On May 29, Trudeau first indicated that the government was exploring possible modifications of the directives for the Canada Border Services Agency to allow cross-border families in Canada and the United States to reunite.
“This is an incredibly difficult time to be apart from a spouse, a child, or mom or dad. We hear that,” Trudeau said on Monday.
UPDATE ON AID MEASURES
During his Rideau Cottage address on Monday morning, Trudeau also spoke about the existing direct financial aid programs that have been rolled out over the last few months in an effort to offset the economic and social impacts of the nationwide shutdowns.
The two biggest have been the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which more than 8.4 million Canadians have applied for, receiving a total of $43.5 billion; and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which more than 195,500 employers have applied for, receiving $9.3 billion to help cover 2.5 million employees’ pay. Smaller offerings have also been made to targeted sectors and segments of the population, such as students, seniors, and people with disabilities.
On Monday Trudeau vowed that work continues with the provinces and territories on further help needed as each region gradually reopens, such as personal protective equipment, child care, transit, paid sick days, and additional help for at-risk populations.
“There’s no doubt that the last few months have been harder than anyone could have expected. This pandemic has meant different challenges for everyone, but no matter who you are, and no matter what you’re dealing with, a little bit of help can make all the difference,” Trudeau said.
The massive spending—passed swiftly through abbreviated emergency House of Commons sittings—has prompted calls from the opposition parties for a full accounting of the cost to taxpayers so far and the overall impact COVID-19 has had on the economy given the damage it’s done to global markets.
To date the government has said there remain too many uncertainties to offer up an accurate budget or economic update.