Feds invoking Quarantine Act for those entering Canada

Snowbirds and others returning to Canada were requested to self-isolate for 14 days. With many failing to comply, the federal government is now invoking the Quaranine Act, giving it more enforcement powers. (Richard McGuire Photo)

We’ve all heard anecdotal stories about snowbirds returning to Osoyoos from wintering in the U.S. and refusing to self-isolate for the requested 14 days.

Sometimes they’re seen stopping off at local grocery stores to shop after crossing the border and before going home. We hear stories of some of them socializing with friends and laughing about self-isolation.

Today (March 25) the federal government announced it is invoking the Quarantine Act to legally require people entering the country to self-isolate for 14 days.

“Earlier this month, we asked all travellers to self-isolate when they returned to Canada,” said Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu in a tweet this morning. “Today, we are making this isolation mandatory under the Quarantine Act to better protect our most vulnerable.”

Global News quotes Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as saying it takes effect at midnight and affects all travellers except essential workers. Border officials will take contact information of people crossing the border to ensure they are observing the quarantine.

The Quarantine Act was passed into law in 2005 following the SARS outbreak of 2003.

Among its provisions are:

 A peace officer may, at the request of a screening officer or quarantine officer, arrest without a warrant and bring to a quarantine officer any traveller who the peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe has refused to be isolated or refuses to comply with a measure under subsection 15(3).

 On an ex parte application by a quarantine officer, a provincial court judge within the meaning of section 2 of the Criminal Code who is satisfied on information submitted in writing and under oath that a traveller has failed to comply with an order made under subsection 25(1) or section 26 may issue a warrant directing a peace officer to arrest the traveller and take them to a quarantine officer.

 Every person who fails to comply with an obligation imposed under subsection 15(3) or 25(1) or section 26 is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $200,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.

It’s not yet clear how the feds will apply the Act, but as the above sections and others make clear, the law has sharp teeth for those who ignore it.

The move comes after numerous reports of people failing to self-isolate after returning to Canada.

Here is the Public Health Agency of Canada’s news release with further details.

Here is a more detailed story from CBC.

Author: Richard McGuire

Richard McGuire is an Osoyoos photographer who worked at the Osoyoos Times between 2012 and 2018, first as reporter and then as editor. He has a long career in journalism as well as research, communication and management at the House of Commons in Ottawa and in the federal government.