Legal challenge mounted against Canada’s federally mandated quarantine hotel policy
Posted March 9, 2021 1:53 pm.
Last Updated March 9, 2021 5:20 pm.
TORONTO – A constitutional rights advocacy group is mounting a legal challenge to the Canadian government’s quarantine hotel policy.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has filed an application with Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice along with five individuals, seeking an end to the policy.
A government order that went into effect on February 14 mandates that anyone entering Canada from abroad must stay in a federally approved hotel for the first three nights of a 14-day quarantine.
“The biggest issue is that we have a fundamental right to enter Canada and this is a limit on that right and it’s not a justified limit,” said Christine Van Geyn, litigation director for the CCF.
“There are so many alternatives that would be less infringing on rights.”
Travellers may leave the hotels once a COVID-19 test taken at their point of entry comes back negative.
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The Canadian Constitution Foundation argues in its legal application that hotel quarantine requirements are “overbroad, arbitrary and grossly disproportionate.”
It argues the hotel policy detains people without COVID-19 symptoms who would be able to safely quarantine outside of government-approved accommodation at minimal or no expense.
The CCF is also seeking damages of $10,000. Van Geyn said the request for nominal damages is to cover off the costs of the five individual applicants for their hotel stays at approximately $2,000 per person.
“The focus is not on the money, the focus is on the ability for them to exercise their fundamental rights,” she said.
She noted that Canada has an exemption to its quarantine policy for people entering the country for compassionate purposes, but not for residents who had to leave Canada for similar reasons.
“If you live in Florida and your mother breaks her hip and you need to come to Canada to help her … you can apply for an exemption and be granted one,” said Van Geyn.
“But if the situation is reversed, if you live in Canada and your mother lives in Florida, you would still want to go and help her prepare for surgery and recover, but you are not eligible for an exemption when you return.
“It’s strange to me that the government is concerned about these compassionate travellers but only when you’re travelling in one direction.”
In early March, the federal government said it was working with authorized hotels to address the growing number of stories of travellers facing chaotic conditions when they arrive for their mandatory three-day hotel quarantine after flying into Canada.
One example out of one quarantine hotel in Toronto, where travellers left their rooms and headed to the lobby to demand food and water after waiting hours for their meals to arrive.