Earlier this month, the Government of Canada asked all travellers to self-isolate when they returned to Canada. Yesterday, the Government of Canada announced an emergency order making self-isolation mandatory under the federal Quarantine Act. The order is in effect from March 25, 2020 to June 30, 2020.
Individuals entering Canada must promptly self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 in accordance with instructions provided by a screening officer or a quarantine officer at the time of entry. A person entering Canada who displays symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or difficulty breathing) must disclose their symptoms to a screening officer or quarantine officer and undergo any health assessments required by a quarantine officer.
Individuals unable to self-isolate will be required to attend a Government of Canada quarantine facility for the 14-day isolation period. A person will be considered unable to self-isolate if they meet one of the following conditions:
- They have to use a public means of transportation from the place where they enter Canada to arrive at the place where they will isolate themselves. Public transportation includes aircraft, bus, train, taxi, subway and a ride-sharing service; or
- They will not be able to isolate for 14 days without either:
- Coming in contact with a “vulnerable person”; or
- Having access to the necessities of life.
A “vulnerable person” is someone who:
- has an underlying medical condition;
- has a compromised immune system from a medical condition or treatment; or
- is 65 years of age or older.
As of March 18, 2020, international flights are only permitted to land at airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. This has caused some confusion regarding connecting flights and the application of the self-isolation order. The Minister of Health has stated that travellers arriving at one of the four international airports who require connecting flights in Canada will be required to self-isolate in the city they arrive in prior to taking a connecting flight. The government will provide the accommodation and meals for travellers stuck in those situations.
At this time, flights from the United States, sun destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean, and St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, are not being redirected as “international flights”.
The mandatory self-isolation requirements do not apply to the following persons:
- a crew member or persons who enter Canada solely to become a crew member;
- a person who enters Canada for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response at the invitation of the Minister of Health;
- a member of the Canadian Forcesor a visiting force as defined in section 2 of the Visiting Forces Act;
- a person who will provide essential services in Canada or who is permitted to provide emergency services in Canada;
- a person whose presence in Canada is in the national interest;
- a person who enters Canada for the purpose of providing medical care or transporting essential medical equipment, supplies, or means of treatment; and
- a person who enters Canada for the purpose of receiving essential medical services or treatments, other than services or treatments related to COVID-19.
The requirement to remain in isolation also does not apply for the duration of any medical emergency that requires a person to visit or be taken to a health care facility.
Failure to comply with the 14-day self-isolation requirements can result in significant penalties. Maximum penalties include a fine of up to $750,000 and/or imprisonment for six months. Further, a person who causes a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person while wilfully or recklessly contravening the self-isolation requirements could be liable for a fine of up to $1,000,000 or to imprisonment of up to three years, or to both.
Prior to the federal order on self-isolation, various provincial and municipal governments announced their own self-isolation provisions with differing penalties for travellers who fail to self-isolate for 14 days after returning to Canada. The emergency order released by the Government of Canada does not comment on the interplay between provincial, municipal, and federal penalties for failing to follow self-isolation rules. The penalties for failing to comply with the federal Quarantine Act are far more severe than any provincial penalties announced to date. For the time being, we can assume that the federal sanctions will apply.
Refer also to our Foreign Worker Travel to Canada During COVID-19 — What Employers Should Know blog for more information about travel restrictions to Canada.
Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.