Believing that a three-day quarantine in a hotel on arrival in Canada will undermine the fundamental rights of travellers, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is inviting Canadians to sign a petition, entitled "No to Quarantine Prison Hotels," to oppose the new measure.
The CCF is a charitable organization that defends the constitutional rights of Canadians before the courts and before the public option.
In its view, hotel quarantine does not constitute a legitimate limit on the rights of Canadians.
“Our Charter explicitly protects the right of Canadians to enter, remain and leave Canada. The imposition of these "quarantine prison hotels" is a clear violation of the right of Canadians to enter their own country," states Christine Van Geyn, director of litigation at the CCF.
What's more, the CCF finds the announced measure redundant and unnecessary, since it is superimposed on other requirements, such as those of multiple screening tests and that of the obligation of a 14-day quarantine at home.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), on Monday (Feb. 8), outlined its criteria for hotels seeking to participate in the quarantine program for returning travellers.
The conditions posted online brings Ottawa closer to formalizing its latest requirement for air travellers entering Canada to take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival, and book a three-night stay in a hotel to await test results (at their own expense).
Travellers - "a convenient political target"
Van Geyn believes vacationing travellers to the Caribbean serve as a sort of government scapegoat, calling it a "convenient political target" to justify draconian measures.
The problem is, in doing so, the government also penalizes people who travel for compassionate reasons, for example.
And this is all the more the case since the government has still not defined what constitutes an essential trip and what is not, says Ms. Van Geyn.
Indeed: in the absence of a clear definition, if people traveling for funerals, or to take care of sick loved ones, how do you know if they are traveling for essential reasons or not?
In the same vein, Ms. Van Geyn evokes the real case of parents of children with severe anaphylaxis, who need specialized treatments only offered in a state-of-the-art hospital in California.
Do they deserve to be punished in a hotel-quarantine prison, at their expense?
“...Many people who travelled during these perilous times are doing so for truly heart-wrenching reasons. And the federal government’s clumsy Friday announcement has left these travellers scrambling” says Van Geyn.
Fight COVID without infringing on rights
The CCF recognizes that certain health measures are necessary to fight COVID-19. However, the requirement of quarantine at the hotel seems disproportionate to him.
"We can prevent the spread of COVID-19 while still protecting the fundamental rights of Canadians." argues the CCF.
Aimed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government, the petition to oppose quarantine prison hotels reads as follows:
"I urge you to reverse plans to impose quarantine prison hotels and to stop treading on our civil liberties and causing real harm to already struggling Canadians. While some health measures are warranted, this measure is irrational and does not minimally impair our rights."
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