New border exemptions for compassionate grounds and family reunification come into effect
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A new process for enhanced family reunification, entry for compassionate reasons and allowing international students to enter Canada comes into effect Thursday.
The federal government recently announced plans to allow these groups of people to cross the border into Canada, by using a digital process that will provide qualifying applicants a more streamlined process to cross the border into Canada, effective Oct. 8, 2020.
“It is dragging on and families need to be with each other now more than ever,” says Health Minister Patty Hadju.
The border has been closed to non-essential traffic since March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put on strain on cross-border relationships and families looking to visit loved ones.
“It was very clear, especially working with MP Irek Kusmierczyk, who is such an advocate for compassion, to have a better process that would be clear, understandable and ensure people could get access to their loved ones, especially in times of need,” says Hadju.
She indicates there will be a more effective process for quarantine exemptions in rare compassionate cases, but day visits to see people in Canada will still not be possible as it still requires a two-week quarantine period upon entry.
“The mandatory quarantine measures, which require travellers to quarantine or isolate for 14 days immediately upon entry to Canada (unless they are expressly exempt), have been effective,” states a government of Canada media release.
The government is also increasing the use of digital forms to allow provinces and territories to share critical information with each other and streamline the process at the border.
“The vision is we have one form that will ensure that compassionate reunification that the person have the permission from the local health unit as well as the provincial health officers and they would be able to submit that form to CBSA upon crossing,” Hajdu tells CTV Windsor. “And that would actually indicate to the officer that all of the work has been done at all levels and this is an allowable entry into Canada.
According to the Canadian government, the groups of people affected by the changes are:
- Certain extended family members of Canadian citizens and Canadian permanent residents, including those in an exclusive dating relationship of at least 1 year and their dependent children, as well as adult children, grandchildren, siblings and grandparents.
- Foreign nationals for compassionate reasons in specific circumstances, such as life-threatening illness, critical injury or death, with potential limited release from quarantine.
- International students, starting October 20, 2020, if they will be attending a designated learning institution that has been identified by their provincial or territorial government as having a COVID 19 readiness plan in place.
Information on eligibility and the process for travel and entry into Canada is now available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website (canada.ca/coronavirus).
“There will be a robust process in place for extended family members, and each traveller will need to apply for and be issued an authorization before they can travel to Canada,” the release states.
In addition to the new processes, the government is also deploying a total force of 190 public health officials to ports of entry across Canada by the end of the fiscal year.
“To improve information-sharing, the Public Health Agency of Canada has deployed digital portals for travellers to share their critical information, including through the ArriveCAN app, so data can be transmitted to provinces and territories quickly and securely,” the media release states.
The government is also beefing up compliance and enforcement efforts. Screening officers are making follow-up calls to anyone entering Canada to ensure people are abiding by the rules once they cross the border.
Law enforcement has the right to follow up and if any traveller is suspected of non-compliance with the quarantine requirements, they face stiff financial penalties.
Fines can range from $1,000 and repeat offences ca result in multiple tickets.
“Where the non-compliance is not addressed through a contraventions ticket, an individual could face fines of up to $750,000 and up to 6 months in prison where charges are laid for an offence under the Quarantine Act,” according to the government. “Willfully or recklessly contravening the Quarantine Act could also result in fines of up to $1 million and 3 years’ imprisonment.”
While the restrictions around compassionate grounds are being changed, the government notes its top priority is stemming the spread of COVID-19 and keeping health and safety of Canadians top-of-mind.
“These new measures will bolster the effectiveness of Canada’s travel restrictions, while recognizing additional specific circumstances where a foreign national’s presence in Canada will be beneficial and can be safely accommodated,” the release states.
Hadju hinted that as tools and technologies in the fight against COVID-19 advance, quarantine requirements may also be loosened.
“I think we’ll get to a place where we’ll get to a place where we will see a blend of testing and quarantine but at the end of the day we really want to continue to suppress the importations so we’re not adding to the border of public health,” Hadju says.