'Progress' being made toward getting Windsor-Essex residents cross-border vaccine exemption
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Existing Canadian laws may allow Canadians to cross the United States border to get vaccinated without the requirement to quarantine on a case-by-case basis, according to Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj.
Musyj has been pushing the federal government in recent weeks to either get excess vaccines in Detroit, Mich. shipped to Canada, or allow Canadians an ability to cross into the United States for the sole purpose of vaccination. He says the latter effort, sending people stateside, shows the most promise.
“These are doses that we’re being told by professionals over there are being wasted daily and are on the verge of being wasted,” says Musyj. “These are excess doses that are available for use. And we are literally two kilometres away from them in Windsor at a time when for our Windsor-Essex residents, demand is outstripping supply.”
The hospital CEO received correspondence from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Monday morning, indicating: “Individuals travelling to the United States for vaccination may be exempt from testing and quarantine requirements if they present the following information to Government of Canada officials at the point of entry:
- Written evidence from a licensed health care practitioner in Canada who indicated that the medical services or treatments outside Canada are essential, unless the services or treatments are for primary or emergency medical services under an agreement with another jurisdiction and,
- Written evidence from a licensed health care practitioner in the foreign country who indicated that the services or treatments were provided in that country.
“Public health focuses on the word may, and indicates that they’re going to deal with it on a case-by-case basis,” Musyj told CTV News Monday. “But the rules are there to allow someone to avoid quarantine on the way back if they do go over to get vaccinated if they follow the rules.”
Musyj is seeking clarification as to exactly who is constituted as a “licensed health care practitioner” to avoid further confusion or an inappropriate understanding of the government’s order in council.
Laurie Tannous, an international business and Canadian immigration lawyer, says based on this, she would advise her clients to get their passports “time-stamped” to provide more evidence to border officers that the sole purpose of the trip was for the intended purpose of getting a vaccine.
“Get the time stamp to ensure that you crossed the border, you turned right around, didn’t make any other stops and came back.. to limit the possibility of having to quarantine,” said Tannous, who adds officers have the ability to show discretion and can make case-by-case exemptions where the evidence allows.
“Any of these things people can do will definitely go towards mitigating the possibility of quarantine,” she says.
It’s an issue Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens has been pressing the federal government on as well.
“I want people to have the certainty that if they provide the documents listed in the order in council legislation, that they know they aren’t going to be subject to quarantine,” said Dilkens.
The mayor made a notice of motion at Monday’s council meeting, urging “the governments of Canada and Ontario to work collaboratively with local public health and municipal officials to enable the efficient transit of Windsor-Essex residents to Detroit to take advantage of numerous offers from US officials to make surplus vaccines available to Canadians without a requirement to quarantine.”
Council unanimously supported the motion.
But it would appear that PHAC is not in agreement that people crossing for a vaccine should ride on transit — but rather, individually.
“Transportation to and from the location should be via a private vehicle and only those who are in quarantine together are permitted in the same vehicle. During transit, infection prevention and control practices, including wearing a mask and physical distancing, are required,” reads the response from PHAC.
“That’s what we need the federal government to work with us on, to open up and create pathways for that to happen,” said Dilkens. “Because no one is happy here with a one-dose summer.”
“We all want a fully vaccinated summer and there are pathways in our backyard to make that happen.”