This week, the Canadian government released several updates to border restrictions, and additional measures to protect public health during the Covid-19 pandemic. These updates include greater public health measures (including penalties for non-compliance), and an easing of travel restrictions for the purposes of family reunification, compassionate circumstances, and for international students.
Entry for the Purposes of Family Reunification, Compassionate Reasons, and Study
The government is introducing a process to allow for greater family reunification, entry for compassionate circumstances, and allowing entry for some international students.
To promote family reunification, some ‘extended family members’ of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents will be permitted into Canada:
If your relationship is with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you must be:
- in an exclusive dating relationship of at least 1 year and have spent time in the physical presence of that person at some point during the relationship;
- a non-dependent child (adult child);
- a grandchild (dependent child of a non-dependent adult child);
- a sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling;
- a grandparent.
If you’re related to the spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you must be a
- non-dependent child (adult child);
- grandchild (dependent child of a non-dependent adult child);
- sibling, half-sibling or step-sibling;
If you’re related to someone in an exclusive dating relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you must be a
- dependent child;
- non-dependent child (adult child);
- grandchild (dependent child of a non-dependent adult child).
If you or your family members fall into any of these categories, you will need to request and receive written authorization from the government before you travel to Canada.
Foreign nationals that have compassionate circumstances warranting entry to Canada, including life-threatening illness, and critical injury or death, may be permitted to enter Canada, and potentially be able to obtain limited release from the 14-day quarantine requirement.
Before travelling to Canada, individuals must receive advance approval for both the exemption to the border restrictions and a limited release from quarantine.
Individuals seeking approval for these exemptions must complete an application form, and submit a Letter of Required Support or proof of death as well as any necessary Site Visit Authorizations to:
- be present during the final moments of life for a loved one or to provide support or care to someone who is critically ill;
- provide care for a person who has a medical reason as to why they require support;
- attend a funeral or end of life ceremony.
Applications will be reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, who will confirm whether the request meets the requirements for entry and/or limited release from mandatory quarantine for compassionate reasons and aim to respond within 7 business days.
As of October 20, 2020, international students that will be “attending a designated learning institution that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID‑19 readiness plan in place”, will also be permitted entry into Canada.
A list of “Designated Learning Institutions” with approved COVID-19 readiness plans will be available on or before October 20th. International students currently outside of Canada who are seeking to enter Canada on or after this date must ensure that their institutions are on this list before travelling to Canada.
The current travel restrictions are constantly changing, and we will continue to update you on new developments, including the application process for these categories as we learn more over the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you wish to discuss your options for navigating the current travel restrictions and the impact of these updates on your potential travel plans, please contact our office.
New Public Health Measures, and Penalties for Non-Compliance:
The government also announced new measures to enhance the effectiveness of Canada’s travel restrictions, including:
- public health screenings at the border;
- monitoring individuals subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, and;
- increasing information gathering between the provinces and territories.
In terms of supporting public health measures at the border, the government indicated that at every port of entry, quarantine officer support is made available through the Central Notification System. In addition to this, the government will be sending more public health officers to 36 ports of entry over the next few months. In total, 190 public health officials will be deployed across Canada by the end of this fiscal year.
In an effort to increase information sharing between the provinces and territories, the Public Health Agency of Canada has invested in digital portals for travelers to share their critical information, including through the use of the ArriveCAN app.
The government also announced major developments in the compliance and enforcement regime:
- Since March 2020, approximately 100 screening officers at call centers have made almost 1 million contacts with travelers entering Canada, making approximately 4,300 live calls and 3,500 automated calls daily;
- The government announced greater collaboration between the Public Health Agency of Canada and Service Canada to increase these efforts.
If individuals entering Canada cannot be reached through the call centers, or if they are suspected of not complying with the quarantine measures, law enforcement will follow up with these individuals. In jurisdictions that have entered into the ticketing regime under the Contraventions Act, RCMP officers or provincial officers have the authority to issue fines of up to $1,000, and issue multiple fines to individuals that repeatedly fail to comply. If these fines prove insufficient to deter non-compliance, an individual could be fined up to:
- $750,000 and face up to 6 months in prison pursuant to the Quarantine Act;
- $1 million and 3 years’ imprisonment (for more serious contraventions).
For more information on the new health and compliance measures and how you may be impacted by them, please contact our office.