In March of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak swept through Canada and the United States, sending North America into a lockdown. By April 2020, the Federal government of Canada had invoked both the Emergencies Act and the Quarantine Act in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Stay-at-home orders were issued and travel both inside and outside of Canada was restricted. States all over America went into lockdown, also placing restrictions on movement and travel.
More than one year into the pandemic, Ontario has just begin lifting restrictions. This is in stark contrast to much of the U.S. and the rest of Canada, who have, for the most part, lifted restrictions. In fact, Ontario remains the only jurisdiction in North America where indoor dining is still prohibited.
The Quarantine Act & the Emergencies Act
In April of 2020, the Canadian federal government invoked both the Quarantine Act and the Emergencies Act. Both pieces of legislation allow the Canadian government to place restrictions on citizens in times of emergency, including disease outbreak. These pieces of legislation were used to limit the ability of Canadian’s to travel both within Canada’s borders and outside of Canada’s borders.
Under the Quarantine Act, travelers entering Canada must answer all relevant health related questions asked by a screening officer or quarantine officer. Travelers must disclose any communicable diseases they are aware of and must isolate as instructed by a quarantine officer. Quarantine officers may also require any individual entering Canada to undergo a medical assessment to determine whether they are COVID-19 positive. Failure to abide by these rules may result in an individual being arrested and charged. As of July 2021, these restrictions remain in place, limiting the movement of Canadian’s outside of Canada.
Under the Emergencies Act, Canadian’s have also been restricted in their movements within Canada. Most of Canada has been under a stay-at-home order on and off for much of the COVID-19 outbreak. As of mid-June 2021, these restrictions were lifted in all of Canada, however restrictions on larger social gatherings remain in place in parts of the country including Ontario.
The Canadian government has indicated that restrictions can only be lifted once COVID-19 numbers have dropped and the majority of the population has been fully vaccinated.
With vaccine roll out in Canada underway, the government has lifted restrictions in the majority of Canada, with the major exception being Ontario. To prove immunity going forward, the Canadian government has discussed rolling out immunity passports. Immunity passports are documents that allow an individual to prove they have been vaccinated for a certain communicable disease. While the idea is not new in Canada, many are afraid immunity passports will be used to force Canadian’s to get vaccinated.