Provinces and territories say extreme measures are needed to protect their residents from the spread of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease.
But the border bans have fueled criticism from civil rights activists who argue that the ban on fellow Canadians is unconstitutional. Travel restrictions have also angered Canadians who have been denied entry on trips they deem crucial.
“I’m not trying to go to the funeral of my aunt or cousin. This is my mother, my last living relative, “said Shannon, who grew up in Rothesay, New Brunswick.
Protect the health of its citizens
Thursday, shortly after CBC News asked for comments on Shannon’s case, the government of new brunswick announced it will reopen its borders as of June 19 to Canadian travelers with an immediate family or property in New Brunswick. It also plans to grant entry to those attending the funeral or burial of a close family member.
Province Campbellton area, however, remains out of bounds.
Shannon was happy to hear the news, but she doesn’t know if she will get permission to enter the province in time for her mother’s funeral. She should first isolate herself for 14 days upon arrival, as required by the province, and the cemetery containing her mother’s body told her that the burial was to take place soon.
“I just hope that [permission comes] fast enough for me. ”
New Brunswick told CBC News that restricting visitors outside the province is a key way to protect the health of its citizens.
“It is necessary because of the threat posed by travel: all but a handful of [COVID-19] the cases are travel cases, “said Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, in an email.
Kim Taylor of Halifax was so upset that she was denied entry in early May to attend her mother’s funeral in Newfoundland and Labrador. launched a lawsuit against the province.
“I certainly feel like the government has let me and my family down,” she said.
It’s not true. No province in Canada can close its borders to Canadian citizens.– John Drover, lawyer
Shortly after speaking publicly about her case, Taylor was granted permission to enter the province – 11 days after she was initially dismissed. But the court challenge is still going on – in principle.
” It’s not good. No province in Canada can close its borders to Canadian citizens ”, Taylor’s alleged lawyer, John Drover.
Violation of the charter, according to the ACLC
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has joined the trial and a sent letters each of the provinces and territories prohibiting Canadian visitors, highlighting their concerns.
The CCLA contends that provinces and territories prohibiting Canadians violate the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which States that every Canadian has the right to live and work in any province.
The CCLA has stated that if a province or territory limits these rights, its reasons must be justified.
“So far, what we have seen from these governments has not convinced us that there is good evidence that these limits are reasonable,” said Cara Zwibel, Director of the CCLA’s fundamental freedoms program.
“The existence of a virus in itself is not a sufficient reason. “
Newfoundland and Labrador also faces a Class action proposal launched this month, representing Canadians who have been denied homeownership in the province.
“The problem our customers take is that this [restriction] is explicitly for geographic reasons and it seems contrary to the Charter of Rights, “said Geoff Budden, a lawyer with the trial, who has not yet been certified.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has told CBC News that it is considering the prosecutions. Both were filed with the Provincial Supreme Court.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball on Wednesday defended the province’s travel restrictions, saying they are still necessary to avoid spreading the virus.
“It was put in place to protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; it’s not about excluding people, ”he said.
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What about 14-day isolation?
The other provinces of Canada have each advised against non-essential travel at this time, but still allow Canadian visitors to enter their province. However, Nova Scotia and Manitoba require that visitors be isolated for 14 days. Zwibel of the ACLC said the rule may be a less restrictive way for a province to protect its residents during the pandemic.
“The Charter of Rights requires that if governments impose limits on rights, they do so in a way that minimally affects them,” she said.
Back in Vancouver, a frustrated Shannon points out that New Brunswick already allows temporary foreign workers into the province – provided they stay in isolation for 14 days. However, his invitation is still pending.
“It is very overwhelming to think that I am less welcome in New Brunswick than someone who was not even born in Canada,” she said.