Ontario and Quebec premiers call for stricter measures at land and air borders
Published Thursday, April 22, 2021 2:14PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 22, 2021 3:46PM EDT
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Quebec counterpart are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to introduce “stricter” measures at land and air border crossings to ensure that all non-essential travel is “curtailed” amid a devastating third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an open letter sent to Trudeau on Thursday, Ford and Quebec Premier Francois Legault formally requested that the federal government further reduce incoming international flights while also taking action to close loopholes at the Canada-U.S. land border that they say have allowed some travellers to sidestep quarantine requirements.
“The actions your government has taken to date are essential in continuing to limit the importation and spread of new variants of the virus. We fully support current measures taken, such as requiring a negative test from all passengers prior to boarding a flight or arriving at a land border, limiting the number of international entry points, and instituting new testing and quarantine measures upon arrival, but more must be done,” they say in the letter. “To protect the lives and well-being of our citizens, to ensure the health system is not further stretched, and to give time for the vaccine roll-out to protect the people Canadians, we need to the federal government to further strengthen measures at air and land borders.”
Ford announced last week that Ontario would prohibit non-essential, interprovincial travel into the province by setting up checkpoints at its land borders with Quebec and Manitoba.
But dozens of international flights continue to land at Pearson International Airport each day and only the federal government has the power to place restrictions on travel into Canada.
In their letter, Ford and Legault said that there is an “urgent need to address issued with testing and quarantining at the borders,” including travelers who opt for fines over staying in a quarantine hotel and others who travel via private vehicle or place to avoid quarantining altogether.
They said that the increased measures should be put in place immediately and remain in place “until the risks of new variants presenting in Canada as a consequence of non-essential air and land travel has been effectively minimized.”
“While it is crucial that the transport of essential goods is not hindered by border measures, it is likewise crucial that all non-essential travel be curtailed,” the say in the letter. “The introduction of stricter measures for travellers crossing at land borders is a significant step to achieve that goal and ensure that collectively we are doing all we can to protect our citizens.”
Hours after the letter was made public, the federal government announced that it is suspending flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days as cases in those countries continue to climb.
Brampton mayor wants all leisure travel into Pearson stopped
Calls from the premiers of Canada’s two most populous provinces to increase travel restrictions come amid concerns that a new variant that has been blamed for a sudden surge in cases in India could soon get a foothold in Canada after already being detected in both British Columbia and Quebec.
On Thursday, Peel Regional Council voted in favour of a motion calling for domestic and international leisure travel into Pearson International Airport to be suspended amid concerns over variants.
“I find it unbelievable that we have been so strict on so many points but so lackadaisical when it comes to allowing flights into our country,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told CP24 earlier in the day. “You know right now if you want to go to the park with your son or daughter and kick a soccer ball around that is illegal. But yet you can go to India for the weekend. It just doesn’t add up.”
Ontario has not yet recorded any cases of the B.1.617 variant, first detected in India.
But the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, became dominant in Ontario in a matter of months and has been blamed for the recent rise in hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths.
“The proof is in the pudding. Variants are getting into the country,” Brown said.