Documents offer new details on flyers, cost to quarantine, and exemptions granted
OTTAWA -- Since Canada’s travel restrictions on non-essential international travellers came into effect in mid-March, more than 335,000 foreign nationals have flown into this country, and 154 national interest exemptions have been granted, according to figures tabled in the House of Commons.
According to the Canada Border Services Agency, as of October 335,872 travellers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents have flown to Canada since the federal Quarantine Act was imposed, limiting non-essential travel and imposing a 14-day self-isolation on people entering Canada from abroad. The CBSA was unable to provide a breakdown of the reasons for their entry.
The United States was where the highest number of travellers were coming from, followed by India, France, Mexico, China, Philippines, United Kingdom, Korea, Jamaica, Guatemala, and Germany.
While the number of travellers averaged around 20,000 a month between March and May, over the summer the number of foreign nationals coming to Canada increased. In June there were more than 37,000 people who flew into this country, rising to more than 59,000 in July, and hitting a pandemic-era high in August, with more than 84,000 travellers coming in. In September there were more than 73,000 travellers who flew in.
As CTVNews.ca has previously reported, according to CBSA figures from March 31 to Nov. 12, an approximate total of 6,544,803 travellers have entered the country, the vast majority of whom were not required to isolate because they were deemed essential workers.
In order for a traveller to be exempt from mandatory quarantine requirements, they must meet an exception outlined in the order enforcing the Quarantine Act.
Over the course of the pandemic, separate exemptions have been made for certain close family members of Canadian citizens, but those travellers have largely been required to complete a 14-day self-isolation upon arrival.
$37M ON QUARANTINE SITES
As part of the quarantine rules in place, the federal government has been requiring those coming into this country to provide proof of an adequate isolation plan, and then in April required anyone returning to Canada to have a “credible quarantine plan” or be forced to spend 14 days in isolation in a “quarantine location,” such as a hotel.
According to a separate government response, as of August “approximately $37 million has been spent on costs associated with hotel accommodations and quarantine site services.”
While the government won’t say specifically where the lodging sites are, the option to isolate in a hotel is available in Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Fredericton, St. John’s and Whitehorse.
Across these sites there are 1,600 rooms available, and the government has no end date in sight for offering to put people up who need a spot to self-isolate.
154 NATIONAL INTEREST EXEMPTIONS
However, not all non-Canadians who have come into Canada have had to isolate. A trio of federal ministers have been able to grant national interest exemptions, allowing non-essential foreign nationals to enter Canada and bypass quarantine.
Based on responses issued to MPs, as of Oct. 5, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has issued nine exemptions over the course of the pandemic: five in May for family members to attend the funeral of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, three in July for individuals in the shipbuilding industry related to a government defence project, and one for a witness to attend a criminal proceeding in-person in September after the court denied an application to testify remotely.
Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has granted 140 national interest exemptions as of Oct. 5, but Global Affairs Canada was unable to provide details about who was allowed into Canada, citing Canada’s privacy laws.
And, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has issued five exemptions over the course of the pandemic, all for players and staff of professional sports leagues, which resulted in a total of 1,458 individuals being allowed in to this country, where the leagues had public health plans in place that were approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“The issuance of exemptions in these five cases was considered to be in the national interest given the importance of professional sports to Canada's society and economy. In particular, the presence of these individuals in Canada to practice and play their respective sports was deemed to support economic growth and recovery, social cohesion, national pride, and the beginning of a positive return to normalcy,” read the departmental response tabled in Parliament.
As of October, when the federal government eased the current cross-border travel policies on family reunification and boosted monitoring for travellers entering the country, Blair said that since the start of the pandemic, between two and three per cent of all COVID-19 cases confirmed in Canada have been tied to travel.