A person is seen in the window of a room at a government-authorized COVID-19 quarantine hotel in Richmond, B.C. on Sunday, February 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Legal challenge launched against Canada’s federally mandated quarantine hotel policy

Group received approximately 5,000 letters of support or from people directly effected by the policy

A constitutional rights advocacy group is mounting a legal challenge to the federal government’s quarantine hotel policy, arguing it infringes on Canadians’ fundamental rights.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation has filed an application with Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice along with five individuals, seeking an end to the policy. The application names the Attorney General of Canada as the defendant.

A government order that went into effect on Feb. 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 are expected to pay for their government-approved accommodations, which can cost hundreds of dollars per night. They may leave the hotels once a COVID-19 test taken at their point of entry comes back negative.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation argues in its legal application that hotel quarantine requirements are “overbroad, arbitrary and grossly disproportionate.”

The applicants are seeking an injunction to suspend the order, but are also asking to have the law struck down for infringing upon the constitutional rights of liberty, freedom from unreasonable detention, and the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.

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.

The CCF argues that 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.

A spokesperson for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada said that they were aware of the legal action and that the federal government intended to respond to the application.

When the order came into effect Van Geyn and the CCF asked for people impacted by the quarantine hotel policy to reach out to them. She said that the group received approximately 5,000 letters of support or from people directly effected by the policy.

Van Geyn said that the five individuals participating in the legal challenge were selected because they all had to travel out of Canada for compassionate reasons, in three cases attending to their parents in the final days of their lives.

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.”

READ MORE: Long wait times, lack of options frustrate travellers booking hotel quarantines

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nav Canada will not be closing the tower at West Kootenay Regional Airport. Photo: Betsy Kline
Nav Canada tower to remain open at West Kootenay Regional Airport

The organization was considering closing the tower

Dresses hang outside Nelson city hall as part of the REDress Project by Métis artist Jaime Black. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson’s REDress Project exhibit vandalized

The REDress Project brings attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women

Dr. Katherine Oldfield is a naturopathic physician, mother, and active member of the Nelson-West Kootenay chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Photo: Submitted
COLUMN: Restore our Earth, restore our health

Katherine Oldfield marks Earth Day by writing about the priorities we need to have

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Shannon Zirnhelt, from left, her son Lockie, 3, Julia Zirnhelt, 13, and Ella Krus, 13, co-founders of Third Planet Crusade are featured in a music video set to air on Earth Day, April 22, 2021. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.-made music video launched in time for Earth Day 2021

Singer songwriter Shannon Zirnhelt worked with Third Planet Crusade on the project in the Cariboo

Ambulance crews have been busy with a record number of emergency overdose calls this Wednesday, April 21. (BC Emergency Health Services)
B.C. paramedics responded to a record 138 overdose calls in a single day

Wednesday’s calls included 48 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 51 in Fraser Health

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. COVID-19 hotspots targeted as AstraZeneca vaccine runs low

17,000 appointments booked the first day for people aged 40 and up

Most Read