905-728-1683 | Log In |

Trudeau closes Canadian borders

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that Canada will be closing its borders to foreign travellers in an attempt to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking to reporters from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Trudeau said Canada is taking “increasingly aggressive steps” and will be closing its borders to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada.

“I know that these measures are far-reaching,” Trudeau said. “They are exceptional circumstances calling for exceptional measures.”

Trudeau said the restrictions will come into effect Wednesday but that exceptions will be made for air crews, diplomats, immediate family members and U.S. citizens.

Trudeau said that second, air operators will ban anyone who is showing symptoms of the virus from getting on a plane.

“That means anyone who has symptoms will not be able to enter Canada,” he said.

Trudeau said the government will set up a support program to assist asymptomatic Canadians seeking to return home.

“Canadian travellers will be able to get financial assistance to help them with the costs of returning home or temporarily covering their basic needs while they wait to come back to Canada,” Trudeau said.

Third, Trudeau said only four Canadian airports will receive international flights.

According to Trudeau, Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Vancouver International Airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Calgary International Airport will receive international flights.

He said domestic flights and flights from the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean will not be affected and that the measures do not apply to commerce or trade.

“We will continue to ensure the supply of important goods to Canada,” Trudeau said.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said certain kinds of workers who need to cross the Canada-U.S. border will be exempted from requirements to self-isolate.

He said that includes airline, train and marine crews, truck drivers and other people whose professions require cross-border travel.

Deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, who also spoke at the conference, was unable to specifically state why U.S. citizens were not barred from entering the country, but said that when it came to the Canada-U.S. border “we need to act with real care, with real delicacy and with real precision.”
“This is a situation we are reviewing constantly,” she said, adding that forcing American tourists to self-isolate for 14 days was already a severe step.

Trudeau also reiterated the government’s recommendation that Canadians abroad return home via commercial means while they remain available.

“Let me be clear: if you are abroad, it’s time for you to come home,” he said. “If you have just arrived, you must self-isolate for 14 days.

“And finally, all Canadians, as much as possible, should stay home. By staying home, you can not only protect your health and that of those around you but ensure that our health-care professionals and our health-care systems can focus on those who need their help,” he added.

When asked by reporters about the decision to close the borders, Trudeau said we have “now come to a point where the best advice from public health officials is that additional border measures on top of the social distancing measures that we are encouraging domestically is the right combination to move forward now.”

As of 9 a.m. Monday, there were 324 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 17 probable cases.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that 13 per cent of those cases required hospitalization.

Almost three-quarters of the cases were people who travelled outside of Canada recently, but public health officials also stressed there is community transmission happening now more frequently.

— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and the Canadian Press