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Commercial, private or military jet? Garneau quarantine travel raises rule questions

Last Updated May 12, 2021 at 12:38 pm EDT

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, left, poses for a photo with his Canadian counterpart Marc Garneau, ahead of bi-lateral talks, part of the the G7 foreign ministers' meetings in London, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy industrialized nations gathered in London to grapple with threats to health, prosperity and democracy. It is their first face-to-face meeting in more than two years. (Eddie Mulholland, Pool Photo via AP)

OTTAWA — Plans for Canada’s foreign affairs minister to take his second international trip in less than a month have raised questions around what’s allowed for those in quarantine and a discrepancy between what Canadians are told and what regulations say. 

Marc Garneau’s office says he’s in quarantine after returning from a G7 ministers’ meeting in the United Kingdom last week. 

It says he arrived back in Canada on May 6, and stayed for two nights in a government-approved hotel in Montreal, as required by Ottawa for those entering the country by air to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

On May 18, one day before he finishes his mandatory 14-quarantine, he’s set to leave for the 12th ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council on May 19-20 in Reykjavic, Iceland. 

The trip comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Public Health Agency of Canada have spent months telling Canadians to forgo non-essential travel to protect themselves and the country from the novel coronavirus and its more virulent mutations, which are driving a spike in cases and hospitalizations. 

Trudeau has characterized Garneau’s second trip as essential, noting that travel required for work is still allowed and the necessary rules will be followed. 

Asked about why Garneau, who was vaccinated back in March, is allowed to exit his 14-day quarantine one day early, Global Affairs Canada pointed to a federal regulation. 

It reads “a person who is in quarantine after entering Canada by aircraft may leave Canada before the expiry of the 14-day period if they remain in quarantine until they depart from Canada.”

However, that rule is different than what the Government of Canada says on its own website around mandatory quarantine and isolation. 

It says people may choose to leave the country before the end of their 14-day quarantine but, “You must use a private vehicle to depart Canada. You will not be allowed to board a flight if you are currently under a quarantine order.”

Similarly, the government’s website says those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms wishing to leave the country before the end of their 14-day isolation must do so by private vehicle and not take public transportation. 

When questioned on the discrepancy, a Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman referred back to the federal regulations, including one stating someone in isolation may leave Canada at the discretion of a screening officer before their two weeks is up in a “private conveyance.”

“We invite you to refer to Order in Council 50 for information about quarantine and isolation. For further information about quarantine and isolation, please contact the Public Health Agency of Canada,” reads a statement. 

Garneau’s office confirms he flew commercially to the United Kingdom. But when asked whether he would do the same to Iceland while still under quarantine — which the government’s own advice suggests may not allowed — or take a private flight, it said details haven’t yet been finalized. 

Typically, Canada’s military Challenger jets have been reserved to transport the country’s prime ministers.

Trudeau has said he hopes to travel to the G7 leaders meeting in the U.K. in June.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press