After controversial headline in Quebec on the arrival of “8000 Jews” at the border, the federal government pushes back

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After controversial headline in Quebec on the arrival of


OTTAWA – The federal government is opposing Quebec media reports that raised fears of the Passover gatherings, while the premier has found his own way to respond to the story.
Prime Minister François Legault says he is concerned about all the gatherings that could take place in the coming days, both for Easter and for Passover.

He was invited to comment after a controversial TVA News interview on Friday in which Jean-Pierre Fortin, president of the union representing customs officials, said there had been around 8,000 people at the Lacolle border post in the past 48 hours .

According to Fortin, many of these people were Jewish. He said they were coming to Canada for Passover, which begins on Saturday, and said they were not going to self-isolate for 14 days.

TVA News announced the interview on Friday with a banner that read “8,000 Jews in 48 hours at the border,” triggering negative reactions on social media.

A government source in Ottawa provided important background on the figures at issue.

“The information reported is not accurate,” wrote spokesperson Jacqueline Callin of the Canada Border Services Agency.

From March 24 to 25, she writes, a total of 7,557 travelers entered Quebec, but through all entry points combined “and not just at the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing”.

It was not clear whether this referred to all land crossings, or also included air entry points, i.e. airports.

In any case, this figure is comparable to previous weeks.

The majority of trips are made by essential workers, the government said. For example, across Canada, truckers accounted for 63% of land border entries in the past 48 hours.

Callin also wrote that the vast majority of those crossing the border by land, 93 percent, are exempt from the 14-day quarantine because they fall into this category of essential workers.

About 74% work in commerce or transport, such as truck drivers, while 19% regularly cross the border to their normal place of work, such as> or, in some areas, health workers. who can work across the border under the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement.

There are strong ties between Hasidic Jewish communities in New York City and the Montreal area, and before COVID, families often crossed the border on summer vacation.

But in TVA’s written coverage, he went back to some of the union’s allegations, saying the CBSA data did not appear unusual and pointing out that there were also many snowbirds crossing the border.

The union president was also angry, the outlet wrote, about an alleged lack of training for new urgently hired employees and he said there was not enough follow-up done on travelers mandated to quarantine.

Legault avoided commenting on the specific question of whether people flock to Canada for Passover, saying he worries about the holidays in general.

“Certainly this worries us, as well as Easter and Passover, because it is an occasion to come together and there is a risk that is associated with Easter. It is happening, and now is not the right time, ”said the Prime Minister.

“A bit like we experienced with the school break, there will be a test to be taken with Easter and Passover. What i ask is [for people] to follow the rules, ”he said.

However, a rule has just been relaxed today. Legault said places of worship, where up to 250 people can gather in Quebec as of Friday, will be closely monitored in the coming days.

Borders, he stressed, are the responsibility of the federal government.

Currently, people arriving at the land border who are not exempt as essential workers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past three days and demonstrate plans for their quarantine. .

An Ottawa official said, when asked about the controversy, said the border restrictions are still in place and apply to all foreign nationals, including US citizens.

“The rules haven’t changed. There is no authorized tourism at the borders with the United States, ”said Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, when asked about the union’s demands.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 26, 2021, with files from CTV staff.

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