Prospective travellers may find an international flight costlier than previously thought, factoring in hotel stays that will soon become mandatory.
Despite controversy over upcoming changes to travel restrictions, political scientist Dawn Moffat McMaster of Grande Prairie Regional College said the mandatory quarantines are likely legal.
At the end of January the federal government unveiled new rules for international travel, while Canadian airlines suspended flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30.
Travellers coming into Canada must reserve a room in a government-approved hotel for three nights, according to Transport Canada. The government hasn’t said when the rule will come into effect.*
Moreover, on arrival a COVID-19 molecular test (such as a nasal test) is also mandatory.
Moffat McMaster said with airports being public spaces, privacy rights would be diminished and the traveller’s right to refuse a test would be limited.
The cost to the traveller for the three-day hotel stay while waiting on COVID results could reach $2,000.*
This would cover not only the room the COVID test, transportation, food and cleaning of the hotel.*
If the COVID test from the airport of arrival is negative travellers are required to do a 14-day quarantine at home. A positive result means the traveller will continue to quarantine in a government-designated facility.
If a traveller doesn’t want to go to a hotel, Moffat McMaster said arrest is unlikely.
“My understanding is (enforcement) has mostly been fine-based and there hasn’t actually been detention,” she said.
Violations of the quarantine rules can result in $750,000 fines, according to the federal government.
“The Quarantine Act passed in 2005 allows the federal government to impose quarantine restrictions,” Moffat McMaster said.
“The federal government does have jurisdiction over international and interprovincial transportation.”
There have been court challenges to other post-travel quarantine rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, but none have been successful, Moffat McMaster said.
She cited case one in November where a reporter travelled to the United States to cover the U.S. election, and unsuccessfully sought a quarantine exemption on the grounds it was “day-to-day” work.
Moffat McMaster said there have been questions about whether the quarantine rules could withstand a person’s right against arbitrary detention under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Charter also guarantees mobility rights, including a citizen’s right to leave and enter Canada.
“The challenge there is both those (rights) are subject to the reasonable limits clause,” she said.
“The rights are subject to limits as long as they are based in law, so there has to be a law passed stating why they are being limited, and that has to be justifiable.
“In this case, that justification would be that public health interest in terms of trying to keep the spread to a minimum.”
With the new COVID-19 variants in particular, she said there is a risk in travel.
She added this rule may have exemptions, but it’s unclear what they will be until a written regulation is completed.
The fact that people could be forced to pay for something, like a three-night hotel stay, may also be valid, she said.
“The argument may be that because people are choosing to travel, they are choosing to take that expense on themselves,” she said.
Anyone who left before the rule was announced and is subject to it may have an argument this is unreasonable, she added.
“This (regulation) isn’t necessarily out of line in terms of what we’re seeing in other countries, in terms of trying to manage international travel and the risks,” Moffat McMaster said.
She said New Zealand is an example of a country with similar mandatory quarantine rules and a similar parliamentary form of government.
According to the federal government Monday, the hotel must be near one of the four airports with international flights, in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
*As reported by CBC News.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News