An overview of Canada’s domestic travel restrictions

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Introduction

Canada has already imposed restrictions on international travellers in order to limit the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19); these restrictions are discussed in detail here. Additionally, Canada has imposed a mandatory obligation on all travellers who enter Canada (with limited exceptions) to self-isolate for a period of 14 days; this obligation is discussed in detail here. Most recently, certain provinces and territories have implemented domestic restrictions for travel across provincial/territorial borders, and/or provincial/territorial obligations to self-isolate. These provincial and territorial restrictions are described below.

Manitoba

Although no restriction is in effect for travel into the province, highway checkpoints have been established for purposes of educating travellers on the public health measures in place to control the spread of COVID-19.

New Brunswick

As of March 25, 2020, the province has implemented restrictions for all travellers coming into the province, including interprovincial/territorial and international travellers. At this time, the restrictions impose a provincial obligation to self-isolate for 14 days, whether or not the traveller has left Canada, or previously been subject to the federal obligation to self-isolate for 14 days.

The following travellers are exempt from the provincial obligation to self-isolate:

  • Workers who are essential service providers, including:
    • Healthy workers in the trade and transportation sector who are important for the movement of goods and people across the border, such as truck drivers and crew on any plane, train or marine vessel crossing the border;
    • Healthy Canadian Coast Guard employees returning to New Brunswick from another province;
    • Healthy people who must cross the border to go to work, including healthcare providers and critical infrastructure workers;
    • New Brunswick residents who cross the provincial border daily to attend work; and
    • Workers who need to travel to work in a neighbouring province, who should travel directly to their place of employment and then back to their home in New Brunswick.
  • New Brunswick residents who require essential healthcare services in another province because the service is unavailable within the province. A patient’s preference for out-of-province treatment will not qualify a resident for this exemption.
  • Patients from out-of-province, with ongoing care (who have been previously seen in New Brunswick or have an appointment booked), can continue to receive services in the province. Both the patient and their caregiver travelling with them must self-isolate and maintain social distancing while travelling. This exemption is dependent on the hospital having the capacity to isolate the out-of-province patient. If not, the patient cannot enter New Brunswick.
  • Residents of Campobello Island who must cross the border to access essential goods or services.

Newfoundland and Labrador

As of March 18, 2020, the province has implemented a mandatory provincial obligation to self-isolate for 14 days after their arrival. This obligation applies to all travellers from outside the province.

The following travellers are exempt from the provincial obligation to self-isolate:

  • Asymptomatic workers who reside in the province but who work in another province or territory in Canada. This exemption only applies while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work. When in the province, these workers must otherwise self-isolate.
  • Asymptomatic workers in the trade, transportation, mining, hydro-electric, and oil and gas sectors, including truck drivers and crew on any plane, helicopter, train or marine vessel (including fish harvesting vessels) arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from another province or territory in Canada. This exemption only applies while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When in the province, these workers must otherwise self-isolate.
  • Asymptomatic workers essential to the critical maintenance of the province’s infrastructure in the trade, transportation, healthcare, fishing and aquaculture, hydroelectric, mining, and oil and gas sectors. This exemption only applies while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When not working, these workers must otherwise self-isolate while in the province.
  • Asymptomatic healthcare workers essential to the provision of critical healthcare in the province, including organ retrieval teams, medical flight specialists, crew on any plane serving as an air ambulance or medevac operation. This exemption only applies while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When not working, these workers must otherwise self-isolate while in the province.
  • Asymptomatic individuals arriving from Québec who cross the border for work or healthcare reasons.
  • Workers travelling to and from the province to offshore oil installations off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador are considered to not have left the province, and are, therefore, not subject to the obligation to self-isolate.

Nova Scotia

The province has implemented a mandatory provincial obligation to self-isolate for 14 days. This obligation applies to all travellers from outside of the province.

The following travellers are exempt from the provincial obligation to self-isolate:

  • Healthy people who have to cross the Nova Scotia land border on a regular and ongoing basis for work, including healthcare workers, community service workers, critical infrastructure workers, and law enforcement and corrections workers.
  • Healthy medical supply or pharmaceutical workers.
  • People visiting Nova Scotia for essential medical care, plus one support person travelling with them.
  • Healthcare workers.
  • Community service workers (including child protection workers and transition house workers).
  • Critical infrastructure workers.
  • Law enforcement and corrections workers.
  • Medical supply or pharmaceutical workers.
  • Members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
  • First responders, including police, fire and Emergency Health Services paramedic workers.
  • Healthy trade and transportation workers, including:
    • Truck drivers; and
    • Airline, marine vessel or train crew, maintenance and operational staff.

Prince Edward Island

A prohibition on all non-essential travel into the province is currently in effect. All travellers are required to contact the PEI Emergency Measures Organization prior to travel, so that a determination can be made regarding whether the purpose for travel is deemed essential.

In addition, screening measures have been instituted at all entry points into the province, and all individuals who are admitted are required to self-isolate for 14 days. The following travellers are exempt from the provincial obligation to self-isolate:

  • Essential workers travelling for work;
  • Persons travelling for emergency medical purposes (including patients and persons necessary to travel with patients); and
  • Persons accompanying animals for emergency services at the Atlantic Veterinary College. 

The province defines “essential services” as services that the interruption of which would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population. It has also provided an exhaustive list of essential service categories, which include:

  • Financial services;
  • Retail;
  • Health and wellness;
  • Key personal services;
  • Key public services; and
  • Supply chain.

A list of specific services, which fall within each category, is provided on the province’s website.

The website also defines non-essential services” as services not providing food supplies, health, financial support or utilities and when not offered to the public will not impact life, health or personal safety. A list of non-essential services is also provided.

Québec

As of April 1, 2020, Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG) officers have been stationed at strategic entry points for purposes of restricting non-essential travel between provinces, as well as certain regions within Québec. SPVG officers will engage with travellers to determine whether their purpose for travel is indeed essential, which could include:

  • Attending work if working remotely is not an option;
  • Attending medical appointments or care; and
  • Travelling for humanitarian reasons.

SPVG officers have established checkpoints at the following locations:

  • Masson-Angers ferry;
  • Alexandra Bridge;
  • Portage Bridge;
  • Chaudières Bridge; and
  • Champlain Bridge.

In addition, Québec has also asked residents of the province to avoid travelling from one region or city to another, except when necessary. Necessary travel includes trips for medical reasons or for work when teleworking is not an option.

Checkpoints have been established to restrict travel into and out of certain territories. When assessing whether a particular individual’s purpose for travel is appropriate, police officers may ask to see certain supporting documents, including proof of residence, a driver’s license, or a document provided by an employer.

Northwest Territories

As of March 18, 2020, a prohibition on all travel that originated from inter-jurisdictional borders has been implemented. There are certain exceptions that apply, which can be found here

In addition, all Northwest Territories residents are subject to a mandatory obligation to self-isolate for 14 days upon return from any area outside of the Northwest Territories. For travellers who believe they fall within one of the exceptions to the travel prohibition, they must first complete a Self-Isolation Plan Form, which must be approved prior to entry.

Nunavut

As of March 24, 2020, there is a prohibition on travel to Nunavut. Only residents of Nunavut and critical workers are exempt from the prohibition. However, residents are subject to a mandatory 14-day isolation period prior to travelling to the territory, and only those found to be asymptomatic at the end of this period will be provided with a letter signed by the territory’s Chief Public Health Officer allowing them to return home. 

Medical travel patients and critical employees will also require written permission from the Nunavut Chief Public Health Officer to enter the territory.

Yukon

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer has strongly advised that all non-essential travel into and out of the territory be suspended. In this regard, the territory has established informational checkpoints at all of its land borders, as well as at the Whitehorse airport. All travellers will need to check in with an enforcement officer, and complete an information card, detailing their destination, contact information, and all stops along the way.

In addition, all travellers, including Yukon residents, are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the territory. No exemptions have been enumerated.

Other provinces

At this time, the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan have not implemented any domestic travel restrictions or provincial obligations to self-isolate.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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