Mother of newborn twins denied exemption to return to home province of N.L.

Submitted by Heidi Matthews

A law professor who recently became a mother to newborn twins has been denied entry to return to her home province of Newfoundland and Labrador to get help with child care.

Heidi Matthews, a law professor at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, says she was denied the right to come home and introduce her newborn twins to family members. The planned trip was for some child care help, not simply a short vacation.

"We're living in a time where at home in Toronto now we're not comfortable and we're not able to invite other people into the home to help us out with our caregiving responsibilities during very crucial first weeks and months of children's lives," she told CBC News on Tuesday.

"I would … come home certainly for a slightly more extended period of time than a one-week visit. Several weeks at a minimum."

Matthews applied for exemption on June 23. Less than three days later it was rejected, she said, without an explanation.

As a legal scholar with a focus on human rights related to emergencies, Matthews said, she has several questions raised about the travel ban itself.

She isn't alone. 

The provincial government is currently facing a class-action suit prepared by lawyers Geoff Budden and Bob Buckingham on behalf of some seasonal residents who have owned property in the province since 2008, while also facing a Charter challenge filled against its travel restriction Bill 38.

Matthews said she may join one of the suits already tabled but may have a court review her own case. 

"I think legal action is an important part in forcing government to be responsive to its legal obligations here," she said. 

Exemption list

The provincial government's travel exemption form can be filled out online. A section lists reasons why a travel exemption is needed, including personal or family medical reasons, and supporting a family member in need of care.

Matthews said there's an arbitrary distinction between the kinds of care giving that the provincial government is valuing in the process.

Submitted by Heidi Matthews

"There's no substantive reason to take seriously the needs of family members who need care because they're critically ill, and the needs of family members who need care, for example because they have, which happens to be in my case, two new additions to the family," she said.

Newfoundland and Labrador will join an "Atlantic bubble" beginning Friday, which allows residents from the four Atlantic Canadian provinces to move throughout the region without a required 14-day self-isolation period upon entering a new province. Premier Dwight Ball said Wednesday the province could also open to the rest of Canada on July 17.  

Asked Tuesday about Matthews' denied exemption, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said she couldn't speak to every decision that's made but noted Matthews could appeal the decision. 

"If someone feels that they need to have a reconsideration or they wish to appeal, they feel that they've been wrongly denied, then they certainly have the opportunity to do that."

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