Cross-Border Couples Penalized By New Canadian Border Measures. Demand Fee Exemption.
Prime Minister Trudeau has announced new quarantine and travel measures to be implemented in the next weeks. They include the voluntary cancellation of flights to the Caribbean and Mexico by Canadian carriers, the limiting of international flights to four Canadian airports, 72-hour negative PCR test for land arrivals from the U.S., and (in addition to negative PCR test 72 hours before flying) PCR test on arrival and quarantine in government facilities for all international air arrivals, paid for by travellers at a cost of $2,000+ dollars per person for an estimated one to three nights, followed by home quarantine for nearly two weeks.
The first measures are hardly controversial as it is generally understood that non-essential travel should be discouraged during a pandemic. The measure requiring land arrivals from the U.S. to present a negative PCR test aligns with the air travel policy that has been in place for weeks. However, the quarantine hotel fee policy poses a particular problem with respect to family reunification and essential travel, as well as general right of return of Canadians. Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadians are guaranteed mobility rights, including family reunification. Section 6(1) guarantees “the right to enter, remain in, and leave Canada.” If all family reunification travellers are expected to pay this EXORBITANT fee, one which is out of line with the cost of the service provided (one to three nights in a hotel, and a PCR test should altogether cost in the ballpark of $350-$600), then there is a grave violation of ACCESS to mobility based on INCOME.
In October 2020, following months of campaigning by Advocacy for Family Reunification at the Canadian Border, a group formed by Dr. David Edward-Ooi Poon, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) created a process to reunite families and couples, which although cumbersome has provided relief to tens of thousands of Canadians seeking to reunite with their husband, wife, partner, or other family members whom they had not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. The IRCC extended family reunification process was an immense relief. It is therefore with horror that Canadians in cross-border (international) relationships watched Prime Minister Trudeau announce the new measures, which absent FEE WAVERS for family reunification, will make second-class citizens out of low- and middle-income Canadians who are unable to pay $2000+ for quarantine hotel and PCR test.
This is because those NEW costs come in addition to pre-existing costs related to family reunification, namely air travel (often $1,000 - $2,000), health insurance ($250 - $5,000), time off work ($1,000 - $20,000), pre-flight PCR tests ($150 - $600) and other dispositions related to quarantine on both ends of the travel route. For the rich, there is no access problem. The measures were even described as “affordable” by the National Post’s Matt Gurney, clearly unable to empathize with people in different situations than his own.
As we saw in the debacle over the CERB eligibility requirements, many Canadians make just over $5,000 in income per year net, for example artists and small business owners. To demand $2,000+ in addition to the thousands already required for cross-border couples to reunite is to condemn them to remain apart, with no plan or outlook for a return to normality. What is even more galling, is the Prime Minister’s pontificating tone on announcing the measures, as if stiff financial penalties will make family reunification any less ESSENTIAL for Canadian families.
Aside Canadians reuniting with extended family, the measure will also unfairly penalize low to middle-income Canadians seeking to move back to Canada. With limited resources, some may find themselves trapped abroad by this government’s disconnected, ill-conceived, classist, possibly unconstitutional measures.
Fee exemptions for those groups requiring family reunification, whether Canadian or the extended family of Canadians (who may be of foreign nationality), and PRECISION on the EXACT rollout date, are thus urgently needed.