In April 2022, “Ms. H” of Langley, BC, who was pregnant, travelled to the U.S. with her husband and her two young children for a short vacation after being subject to two years of lockdown and restrictions. She and her family returned to Canada on April 15, 2022. When she arrived at the border, Ms. H was informed by border officials that she would have to fill out the ArriveCAN form and provide a pre-arrival Covid-19 test. Ms. H respectfully declined on grounds of bodily autonomy and privacy, and informed the officer that she did not have a pre-arrival test as she had been under the impression that the requirement had been lifted. Ms. H’s husband, who is vaccinated, filled out the ArriveCAN form on behalf of the family.
However, it was only upon return from their trip that Ms. H discovered that the changes to testing requirements only applied to vaccinated travellers. “Although troubling the lives of Canadians who sought to leave and re-enter the country, no compelling medical or scientific evidence was provided by the government to support the claim that vaccinated individuals were better protected than unvaccinated individuals,” states Christopher Naimi, a lawyer with the Justice Centre.
The Covid related lockdowns implemented by the government of British Columbia had severely affected Ms. H and her family. Ms. H, who is unvaccinated, is a yoga and fitness instructor, but it has become difficult to return to work following the shutdown of fitness facilities. Her husband, who is a fire fighter, has had to take on additional work in construction to support the family. Ms. H and her family had only been able to afford this trip thanks to the accumulation of travel points.
While Ms. H reported that the border officials were respectful, she was provided with minimal options. She was to take her family and two small children back to the U.S. to get a test, go by herself via taxi or public transit to find a facility to get a test, or receive a fine for not complying with the Quarantine Act.
Ms. H was exhausted due to her new pregnancy, as were her small children after a day of travelling in their car. Because her focus was getting herself and her children home, accepting the fine was the only realistic option in her situation. Ms. H was issued a $5,750 ticket for failing to comply with government orders.
After negotiations with the Crown, Ms. H’s counsel was successful in having her charge withdrawn.
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian Citizens are guaranteed the right to leave, enter, and remain in Canada, which is a basic freedom recognized by any free and democratic society.
“The travel restrictions imposed by governments in response to Covid-19 severely impacted the lives of many Canadians. Despite having the constitutional right to leave and enter the country, Canadians were limited from exercising these freedoms, unless they complied with the Covid-19 policies that attacked the democratic principles entrenched in our Constitution,” continues Mr. Naimi.