Provinces say travel restrictions remain necessary to avoid spreading coronavirus
Lesley Shannon of Vancouver was upset when New Brunswick rejects request last month to enter the province to attend the funeral of his mother.
“I was confused, heartbroken and angry,” she said Wednesday. “They basically said my mother’s life has no value.”
Because COVID 19 pandemic, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and the three territories had been temporarily banned from Canadian visitors entering their borders unless they meet certain criteria, such as traveling for medical treatment.
Provinces and territories say extreme measures are necessary to protect their citizens from the spread of a new coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.
But the border ban has sparked criticism from civil rights advocates who argue fellow Canadian restrictions are unconstitutional. Travel restrictions have also been angered Canadians denied entry to the trip they believe is very important.
“I’m not trying to go to my aunt or cousin’s funeral. It was my mother, parents living my last,” said Shannon, who grew up in Rothesay, N.B.
Protecting the health of its citizens
On Thursday, shortly after Brampton News asked for comment on Shannon’s case, the New Brunswick government announced it will reopen its borders starting June 19 to Canadian travelers with immediate family or property in New Brunswick. It also plans to grant entry to people attending a close family member’s funeral or burial.
The province’s Campbellton region, however, remains off-limits.
Shannon was happy to hear the news but is unsure at this point if she’ll be allowed to enter the province in time for her mother’s burial. She would first have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, as required the province, and the cemetery holding her mother’s body told her the burial must happen soon.
“I’m just hoping that [permission comes] fast enough for me.”
New Brunswick told Brampton News that restricting out-of-province visitors has served as a key way to protect the health of its citizens.
“It’s necessary because of the threat posed by travel: all but a handful of New Brunswick’s [COVID-19] cases are travel cases,” said Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, in an email.
Kim Taylor of Halifax was so upset over being denied entry in early May to attend her mother’s funeral in Newfoundland and Labrador she launched a lawsuit against the province.
“I certainly feel like the government has let me and my family down,” she said.
Violates charter, CCLA says
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has joined the lawsuit and has sent letters to each of the provinces and territories banning Canadian visitors, outlining its concerns.
The CCLA argues provinces and territories barring Canadians violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that every Canadian has the right to live and work in any province.
The CCLA said if a province or territory limits those rights, its reasons must be justified.
“So far, what we’ve seen from these governments hasn’t convinced us that there is good evidence that these limits are reasonable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of CCLA’s fundamental freedoms program.
“The existence of a virus in and of itself is not enough of a reason.”
Newfoundland and Labrador also face a proposed class-action lawsuit launched this month, representing Canadians denied entry who own property in the province.
“The issue that our clients take is that this [restriction] is explicitly on geographic grounds and that seems to be contrary to the Charter of Rights,” said Geoff Budden, a lawyer with the suit, which has not yet been certified.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government told Brampton News it’s reviewing the lawsuits. They have both been filed in the province’s Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball defended the province’s travel restrictions, arguing they remain necessary to avoid spreading the virus.
“This is put in place to protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; it’s not about shutting people out,” he said.
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