Interprovincial travel restrictions deny seasonal residents, cottagers

Published: April 8, 2020

Photo by Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock

In an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, many provincial governments have begun limiting interprovincial travel.

Provinces and territories have begun implementing restrictions, including travel bans and strict isolation guidelines for returning residents, while governments and health authorities attempt to combat the recent spike in coronavirus infections among Canadians.

On Wednesday, April 1, the Quebec provincial government announced new travel restrictions. In an attempt to slow transmission, police checks have been set up on all five major bridges between Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. Officers have been instructed to stop cars in order to assess whether a trip is “essential” in order to limit the number of non-residents entering. Part-time residents or seasonal residents are being told to stay away.

In a press release, the purpose is to “restrict non-essential travel between provinces and regions out of public health concerns, as announced in the instructions issued by the province.”

Additional checkpoints may be added as the COVID-19 situation develops. Quebec is a province that has been hit hard by the current pandemic. According to the government website, as of April 7, Québec has 10,031 confirmed cases of COVID‑19; 175 deaths have been reported.

Quebec leaders have noted that heading to your cottage is not a justifiable reason to enter the province. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Marc Tessier of Sûreté du Québec said, “Everybody has to stay at their principal residence, not at their cottages.”

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The Quebec government has also set up checkpoints on major roads leading to more remote areas of Quebec, as well as at the U.S. border. According to the Quebec government, these restrictions will not affect health care and services, or other essential services.

But Quebec is not alone. As part of similar escalating containment measures, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Manitoba, and Nunavut have started enforcing travel limitations; several also set up checkpoints at border crossings to restrict non-residents from entering.

On March 20, Nunavut enacted a travel restriction order that restricts all entry into the territory (with the exception of residents and essential workers). In accordance with the order, “all Nunavut residents except medical travel clients and escorts must complete a 14-day isolation period, either voluntarily or subject to an order by an official with jurisdiction, at a place designated by the Chief Public Health Officer in Ottawa, Ontario, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Edmonton, Alberta, or Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.”

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Anyone travelling into the Northwest Territories from surrounding provinces (Alberta, British Columbia or Yukon) are also being stopped and questioned by police. Returning residents are required to self-isolate and complete the approved self-isolation plan.

Nova Scotia RCMP also recently began stopping and questioning travellers attempting to enter Nova Scotia from New Brunswick. Exceptions are made for commercial trucks, medical staff, and other essential services. Residents are also asked to self-isolate after returning to the province for 14 days.

On March 27, the Manitoba government set up information checkpoints at the five busiest border crossings and airports to provide guidance, and educate travellers about the risk of COVID-19.

Several other provinces and territories have not yet implemented interprovincial travel bans but have stated, with the exception of essential workers, anyone returning must self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. This includes Ontario, the Yukon, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

As of April 8, no travel restrictions have been implemented by the provincial governments of  Saskatchewan, Alberta or British Columbia.

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