Woman questions N.S. compassionate exemption rules after being denied entry twice

·3 min read
Christine Milne's mother was unable to see Milne's father in the final weeks of his life. Milne has been worried about her mother's health since his passing.  (Submitted by Christine Milne - image credit)
Christine Milne's mother was unable to see Milne's father in the final weeks of his life. Milne has been worried about her mother's health since his passing. (Submitted by Christine Milne - image credit)

A woman from the Maritimes living in the United States is calling on Nova Scotia to clearly define its compassionate entry exemption after she was twice denied to come to the province after her father passed away — a decision that was reversed as soon as CBC News inquired on her behalf.

Christine Milne currently lives in Boston. She's been desperate to help her mother in Halifax after her father died May 19.

"It's the worst nightmare," she said. "To have your father pass away and not be able to be with your family."

Milne applied to come home on compassionate grounds. She said the federal government immediately accepted her application, but Nova Scotia did not.

"Within 30 minutes they denied my entry," she said of the province. Three days later, she decided to try again.

"At that time my mother was in a very bad way, and god forbid that anything would happen and I would lose two parents and not be able to get into the country. So we reapplied again, and within 10 minutes I was denied entry," said Milne.

Willing to isolate

Milne was shocked. She said she is fully vaccinated and was willing to isolate for 14 days upon her arrival.

Milne said through the entire pandemic, she has appreciated Nova Scotia's strict rules, especially compared with what she had seen in some parts of the United States.

She had been allowed to enter the province in December when she thought her father was near the end of his life. At that time, she completed her two weeks of isolation.

She questioned why her vaccination status appeared to carry no significance in letting her support her mother.

Milne noted that Nova Scotia has two exemptions on their website to enter the province: an end-of-life visit, or to write an exam.

"The fact that my family is entirely vaccinated and I can't get in, and they're letting people in to write exams, seems rather odd to me," she said.

Decision reversed immediately

CBC News took Milne's concerns to the province's Department of Health, and the decision was immediately reversed. Within two hours, Milne received an email allowing her entry into the province.

"We know this is a difficult time and our sympathies go out Ms. Milne's family," said a statement from the department. "Compassionate exceptions for end-of-life visits are considered on a case-by-case basis."

The statement goes on to say they are continuing to make changes as the COVID-19 situation changes in the province.

"As part of this planning, we will consider things like vaccination status of travellers and a possible testing strategy to support easing of restrictions," it said.

Christine Milne was granted a compassionate exemption to see her father in December. She couldn't understand why she was denied last week, even though she was vaccinated and willing to isolate.
Christine Milne was granted a compassionate exemption to see her father in December. She couldn't understand why she was denied last week, even though she was vaccinated and willing to isolate. (Submitted by Christine Milne)

Milne said she is thankful and relieved that she will finally get to see her mother, but she said there are likely many other families who have been denied access.

She is calling on the Health Department to clearly define the rules as other provinces have done. She said her initial denials were devastating and put a significant strain on her mother during a terrible time.

"Not only has she not been able to be with him, she can't be with one of her daughters," Milne said.

Milne said she respects those who believe the borders should remain closed.

"I get it, they don't want me there. But I am Canadian, and I am vaccinated," she said. "There's a point during this pandemic where we have to start talking about what the vaccination means."

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