Federal court refuses to end quarantine hotel rules, saying health order remains until full hearing in June

NP

A man looks at his phone at a quarantine hotel near Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, on Feb. 24, 2021.PHOTO BY CARLOS OSORIO / REUTERS

In June a full hearing is scheduled by the Federal Court to hear a number of challenges to the government’s health restrictions in response to COVID

The Federal Court refused to order an immediate end to the federal government’s quarantine hotel rules, but agreed it is an issue needing close judicial scrutiny because of restrictions it places on travellers. A public health emergency, like the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, is in one sense simply another emergency. “ However, it must also be recognized that it is a type of situation that can inspire irrational fears and passions, which may in turn provoke a government to adopt excessive measures that trench unduly on the rights and freedoms of individuals” ,the court said in its ruling.

It is necessary, therefore, to subject government rationale for any emergency measures to a degree of scrutiny that is proportional to the risk that Charter rights may have been impaired by actions based on irrational fears rather than the careful weighing of competing interests based on the evidence.

That examination will come in June, when a full trial is scheduled by the Federal Court to hear a number of challenges to the government’s health restrictions in response to COVID. “Any harm to the Applicants” rights and freedoms from a temporary stay at a hotel is not a sufficient basis to suspend a significant public health measure that is based on the advice of scientific experts, and seeks to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19 and its variants into Canada. 

A joint motion by nine people asked the court to suspend the emergency measure requiring travellers arriving in Canada by air to pre-book and pay for a three-day stay in a government-approved hotel and remain in quarantine there until a second COVID test confirms they are not carrying the novel coronavirus. Most of the nine left Canada before the rules were put in place.

In response, the government argued that having to change travel plans and incur added travel costs because of the rules is not enough to upend public health measures responding to the emergence of new COVID-19 variants of concern. She wants to return to Canada to see her family, especially her first great-grandchild, and also to see her family doctor, court heard. She said she fears for her safety and does not feel comfortable at a mandated federal facility. 

Reid Nehring, an Alberta resident, told court he doesn’t want the government to “insert a foreign object into my body under the guise of testing,” in his objection to the requirement of having a COVID test before arriving in Canada.

He told court the fees of the mandatory hotel will create financial hardship on top of his travel and not working for three months while out of Ontario. Michel Lafontaine, of Quebec, said he and his wife travelled south in response to the Canadian government’s dire warnings that the health care system might be overwhelmed during the pandemic.

Source: Adrian Humphreys | NP 

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