A person is seen in the window of a room at a government-authorized COVID-19 quarantine hotel in Richmond, B.C. on Sunday, February 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Legal challenge launched against Canada’s federally mandated quarantine hotel policy

Group received approximately 5,000 letters of support or from people directly effected by the policy

A constitutional rights advocacy group is mounting a legal challenge to the federal government’s quarantine hotel policy, arguing it infringes on Canadians’ fundamental rights.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation has filed an application with Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice along with five individuals, seeking an end to the policy. The application names the Attorney General of Canada as the defendant.

A government order that went into effect on Feb. 14 mandates that anyone entering Canada from abroad must stay in a federally approved hotel for the first three nights of a 14-day quarantine.

“The biggest issue is that we have a fundamental right to enter Canada and this is a limit on that right and it’s not a justified limit,” said Christine Van Geyn, litigation director for the CCF. “There are so many alternatives that would be less infringing on rights.”

Travellers are expected to pay for their government-approved accommodations, which can cost hundreds of dollars per night. They may leave the hotels once a COVID-19 test taken at their point of entry comes back negative.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation argues in its legal application that hotel quarantine requirements are “overbroad, arbitrary and grossly disproportionate.”

The applicants are seeking an injunction to suspend the order, but are also asking to have the law struck down for infringing upon the constitutional rights of liberty, freedom from unreasonable detention, and the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.

The CCF is also seeking damages of $10,000. Van Geyn said the request for nominal damages is to cover off the costs of the five individual applicants for their hotel stays at approximately $2,000 per person.

“The focus is not on the money, the focus is on the ability for them to exercise their fundamental rights,” she said.

The CCF argues that the hotel policy detains people without COVID-19 symptoms who would be able to safely quarantine outside of government-approved accommodation at minimal or no expense.

A spokesperson for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada said that they were aware of the legal action and that the federal government intended to respond to the application.

When the order came into effect Van Geyn and the CCF asked for people impacted by the quarantine hotel policy to reach out to them. She said that the group received approximately 5,000 letters of support or from people directly effected by the policy.

Van Geyn said that the five individuals participating in the legal challenge were selected because they all had to travel out of Canada for compassionate reasons, in three cases attending to their parents in the final days of their lives.

She noted that Canada has an exemption to its quarantine policy for people entering the country for compassionate purposes, but not for residents who had to leave Canada for similar reasons.

“If you live in Florida and your mother breaks her hip and you need to come to Canada to help her … you can apply for an exemption and be granted one,” said Van Geyn. “But if the situation is reversed, if you live in Canada and your mother lives in Florida, you would still want to go and help her prepare for surgery and recover, but you are not eligible for an exemption when you return.

“It’s strange to me that the government is concerned about these compassionate travellers but only when you’re travelling in one direction.”

READ MORE: Long wait times, lack of options frustrate travellers booking hotel quarantines

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Town of Qualicum Beach plans to establish temporary shelters. (Town of Qualicum Beach illustration)
Town of Qualicum Beach seeks $1.25M grant to build temporary housing units

Aim is to move tenants in prior to the end of 2021

Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association and its Nanaimo-Ladysmith counterpart seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (PQB News file photo)
Mount Arrowsmith teachers’ union asks health authority for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department emergency response vehicle. (PQB News file photo)
Dashwood fire department issues warning to residents to hold off on yard debris burning

Fire chief: ‘Hold off on burning until we get some rain’

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Vandals strike in Parksville, prowler lurks in Nanoose Bay

Oceanside RCMP receive 276 complaints in one-week period

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read