Group challenging Canadian hotel quarantine rule

Benjamin Joe, Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
·3 min read

Feb. 23—In response to travel restrictions made by the Canadian government, David Poon, founder of Faces of Advocacy, was incredulous.

"Will a breastfeeding mother have to pay $2,000 to sit in a hotel room, alone, before quarantining with her family?" he asked.

Last year, things were looking good for Faces of Advocacy, the Canadian not-for profit dedicated to reuniting families across the border.

Through petitioning their government — at one point holding a virtual rally — the group was successful in securing the rights of adult children and individuals in long-term relationships to cross the border and reunite with their loved ones as of Oct. 2, 2021.

However, as of Monday, those entering Canada are mandated to a three-day quarantine in a hotel room at their own expense. The cost of this is between $1,500 and $2,000, a rate that Poon said is unacceptable for family reunification.

To this effect, after close to a month of the group's members asking for an exception to the upcoming rule, Faces of Advocacy has filed a formal charter challenge with the Superior Court of Quebec and has an court date on Friday.

"I think the most important thing is none of us want to take legal action against our government," Poon said. "It was just heartbreaking that there were no family exceptions to the hotel quarantine."

The group challenges that the new restrictions are violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which include that of mobility rights; right to life, liberty, security; and the right not to be arbitrarily detained.

A short-term goal for Poon is an injunction that would temporarily pause the new rules while the court decides whether or not the charter is being violated.

"We never wanted to get to this stage," Poon said. "Last year we were considering a similar legal action, but thankfully, the government of Canada had given in to our family reunification and compassionate travel petitions, so it never got to that stage."

"In my case, I'm lucky enough to have the funds to go through a hotel quarantine, I understand this," he continued. "But for a lot of these people, they simply do not have the funds."

Poon talked about these people. He said he knew of a pregnant woman in Winnipeg, whose partner is in Florida and how he may not be able to make the birth, because of the cost.

"It's outside the realm for a lot of people," Poon said. "In addition to that, without any clear compassionate exemption, we have a person coming in who's doing humanitarian work (abroad). She's a Canadian citizen. She has to come in, she has to pay $2,000 for a hotel just to say goodbye to her dying father who may die in the next few days."

Poon concluded by saying that he understood the Canadian government's intention to stop the spread of COVID-19, but that this was not a cause for people going to the beach.

He said he hopes this obstacle to families reuniting across the border is solved, ideally by an exemption from the rule which would allow family to quarantine at home, or by some kind of reimbursement.

"Discourage vacation, but not families," he said.