This story was updated on Friday, April 30 at 12:27 p.m. EST.
The Ontario government is pressing Ottawa to extend its mandatory three-day hotel quarantine measure to the United States land border, according to reports.
As it has been well documented already, Canadians returning home from the U.S. have been able to circumvent the federal government’s pricey hotel quarantine requirement by changing their routes and entering the country by land.
The Government of Canada enforces hotel quarantine protocols for air arrivals only because it is logistically easier to concentrate efforts at the four airports currently accepting international flights – this being Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
There are fundamental differences between land and air crossings – the main one being that there are 117 points of entry into Canada by land.
Some of Canada’s land crossing are located in remote, rural areas that are not readily accessible to hotels.
Federal officials have already pointed out that it would be an infrastructure nightmare trying to usher land travellers into hotels and that the legal environments are different at land borders compared to air.
Ontario pens a letter
Still, Ontario Premier Doug Ford's government is requesting specific measures for the province, calling for mandatory hotel quarantine stays at well-travelled land crossings, such as the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, ON.
In a recent letter to Ottawa, sent by the province, Ontario Deputy Premier Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones outlined a case for extending quarantine measures to land entries.
"We are requesting the implementation of a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine in federally designated hotels at the highest traffic crossings including those in Niagara, Windsor, Sarnia, and Brockville," reads the letter, which was verified by CBC News.
"Some of these crossings, including the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, are located in close proximity to other crossings. It is important that all travellers in these regions are met with the same quarantine requirement, to ensure that all points of entry are protected."
Not the same thing
Addressing media on Friday (April 30), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau briefly addressed border control after meeting with Canada’s Premiers yesterday.
Premier Ford has asked Ottawa to suspend the arrival of international students and Trudeau said that his team will “work more narrowly” to “formalize” that request.
On land border measures, Trudeau noted how just five per cent of travellers are entering Canada via land and did not imply that he will add hotel quarantine measures to that particular point of entry.
"Anyone arriving at a land border, arriving from the United States, has been tested over the last three days by the U.S. and has been [there] since for at least two weeks because of their own quarantine measures," Trudeau said, speaking in French. "So it’s not the same thing arriving directly by an international flight into one of our airports."
Getting tough on travel
The screws on Canada’s travel restrictions were tightened on Feb. 22 after Prime Minister Trudeau announced mandatory PCR testing at airports and a mandatory three-night quarantine stay in a government-approved hotel, which travellers must pay for themselves, while awaiting test results.
While citizens returning to Canada via the land border, such as snowbirds, have been allowed to skip hotel quarantine, they still have been required to take a COVID-19 test when they cross, and then again after they have isolated at home for 14 days.
All international arrivals, entering Canada in both scenarios, are required to show proof of a 72-hour negative PCR test on arrival.
Earlier this month, Trudeau announced that he will be extending Canada's hotel quarantine and testing requirements for air and land-border arrivals until at least May 21.
Meanwhile, the grounding of sun flights to Mexico and the Caribbean, an agreement between Ottawa and the airlines, has been extended past the April 30 deadline, through May, even as international travel accounts for less than two per cent of all COVID cases in Canada.
Direct flights from India and Pakistan have also been temporarily suspended as federal officials try and halt the spread of COVID-19 variants.
Premier Ford is not alone in his calls on Ottawa to strengthen border measures as provinces across Canada continue to grapple with surges of COVID-19 cases and its accompanying variants.
Last week, Quebec Premier Francois Legault joined Premier Ford in posting a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, urging him to introduce tougher border controls.
“There is an urgent need to address issues with testing and quarantining at the borders, including falsified COVID-19 testing documentation, travellers opting [for] fines over complying [with] quarantine requirements, or travelling via private vehicle/plane to avoid quarantine, among several other areas of concern," the Premiers wrote.
On Thursday (April 29), New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told CBC News Network's Power & Politics that all of the premiers were behind Ford's call to implement stronger quarantine restrictions at the land border.
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