A group of travel and tourism professionals in British Columbia is condemning a potential travel ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel, saying that such a policy goes against Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and would cripple a sector that is “barely hanging on by a thread.”
The backlash comes after B.C. Premier John Horgan, last week, said that he was exploring legal advice on restricting interprovincial travel for residents.
In response to Premier Horgan’s remarks, the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. commissioned a legal opinion that states a travel ban would be difficult to implement because the Supreme Court of Canada has held that Canadians’ mobility rights are among the most cherished rights of citizenship that are fundamental to nationhood.
“These rights are so important they cannot be overridden by the notwithstanding clause,” the association said in a release. “Government will be required to justify any infringement of those rights by showing they are carefully tailored to solve a real problem that other health measures that do not restrict Canadians’ rights cannot achieve.”
It would also be challenging for government to justify creating classes of Canadian citizens based on provincial residency, the group pointed out.
The government would have to explain how a provincial ban would be logical and justified when the federal government permits Canadians to travel for non-essential purposes and return to Canada through any province of their choice, the association said.
“A travel ban would further heighten the unnecessary fears, misperceptions and growing resentment by B.C. residents toward visitors as a result of actions aimed at our industry,” said Vivek Sharma, Chair of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia. “The spread of COVID-19 is not tied to where people live, but how people behave. There should be no reason why Canadians cannot continue to travel to B.C. if they are tested, know and follow the rules, as well as practice health and safety protocols outlined by the PHO and implemented by all businesses.”
The coalition says that the industry is keen to work with government on solutions to address rogue behaviour and further protect the public regardless of where people come from or reside.
Industry leaders have repeatedly emphasized that travel is not the culprit for the spread of COVID-19, but rather individual behaviour.
Coalition members say they are not aware of or have seen any hard data to support further travel restrictions or an outright ban on non-essential travel within B.C. and to/from other provinces.
“We implore the province not to pursue an outright travel ban that would cause undue hardship on businesses, the workforce and our province’s stellar reputation as a welcome and safe place to visit,” said Ingrid Jarrett, President and CEO of the B.C. Hotel Association. “While now is not the time to encourage non-essential travel, banning visitors from other parts of Canada sends a strong and false message that visitors are to blame for rising transmission rates.”
“Conversely, we need to work together with government to convey the message that people visiting B.C. for whatever purpose must commit to our strict health and safety protocols.”
Nancy Small, CEO of Tourism Richmond, added that travel bans, or even discussions about them, “sets these initiatives back and will mean a longer struggle for our beleaguered businesses and the workforce.”
“We need to work productively with all levels of government in the coming months to focus on the future and solutions that will allow us to welcome visitors again,” Small said.
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