COVID-19: Obligatory lodge quarantines might hurt lower-income Canadians, Lawyer says

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COVID-19: Mandatory hotel quarantines could harm lower-income Canadians, Lawyer says

Cara Zwibel suggests the cost could be prohibitive for lower-income Canadians caring for sick relatives or receiving specialized medical care overseas

OTTAWA – The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is challenging Ottawa’s efforts to require hotel quarantines for international travelers as doing so could harm low-income Canadians and violate citizens’ mobility rights.

Cara Zwibel, an attorney who leads the organization’s fundamental freedom program, is calling on the federal government to produce evidence that returning passengers are violating the current obligation to self-isolate at home, which she believes is the only fair basis for tightening the rules.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced more than two weeks ago that travelers flying back from abroad will have to be quarantined for up to three days at their own expense in a federal government-appointed hotel, but admitted that only a fraction of that COVID-19 cases apparently exist from trips abroad.

Zwibel suggests that the cost could be prohibitive – $ 2,000 or more, according to the government – for lower-income Canadians who need to care for sick relatives or get specialized medical care overseas.

Another problem is health conditions, which would make isolation particularly difficult in a hotel.

In a letter to Canada’s Secretary of Transportation and Attorney General, the Association for Civil Liberties calls for Ottawa to develop quarantine and fee waivers for Canadians caring for loved ones or seeking treatment abroad, especially those in tight financial difficulties.

“Travel is not a luxury for these people,” says Zwibel in the letter.

“The government’s definition of what” essential travel “means for these purposes will be important.”

Ottawa has not announced when mandatory hotel quarantines will go into effect. This is one of several measures aimed at containing the spread of viruses at the border and preventing unnecessary travel.

Trudeau announced on January 29 that Canadian airlines had suspended flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30. Residents who choose to fly overseas are now required to present negative COVID-19 test results less than 72 hours before their flight home.

Around two percent of “known exposure” cases have been associated with international travel, and an even lower percentage in recent weeks, according to the Canadian Health Department. However, there is virtually no testing at the border and many recent cases have no identified source.

Section 6 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, stay and leave Canada”, although all rights are subject to reasonable limits.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 8, 2021.

The Canadian press