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Feds introducing legislation barring international travellers from COVID-19 benefits

Monday, January 11, 2021 @ 12:18 PM | By Terry Davidson

Ottawa is moving on its vow to bar those who engage in non-essential travel from accessing key COVID-19 benefits upon their return to Canada.

On Jan. 11, it was announced Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough will be introducing legislation to make it so international travellers will not be able to get the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) or the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) during their mandatory self-isolation period.  

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

According to a news release, the ban would involve “all international travellers who need to quarantine upon return to Canada, including people returning from vacation, visiting loved ones, and attending to real estate matters abroad.”

The introduction of the legislation comes after Ottawa made it mandatory that travellers returning to Canada have to both test negative for COVID-19 before flying back and self-isolate for 14 days after arriving home.

The barring of the benefits, states the release, would be retroactive to early January. It notes those who are exempt from mandatory quarantine, such as “health care workers who need to cross the border for work,” will still be eligible to apply for the benefits.

“The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will update the application process for the three recovery benefits on Monday, January 11. For claims covering a period beginning on or after January 3, 2021, applicants will need to indicate whether they were self-isolating or in quarantine due to international travel. Over the coming weeks, the CRA will delay processing claims for individuals who are self-isolating or in quarantine because of international travel until the legislative process is complete to ensure those who receive the benefit meet the latest eligibility criteria.”

As it has long been doing, Ottawa continues to “strongly urge all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel and to follow all public health and international travel guidelines.”

The CRSB, said Qualtrough in a statement, was meant to provide workers with an option when paid sick leave is not available.

“The benefit was not intended to encourage Canadians to disobey public health and international travel guidelines,” she said. “We have heard Canadians and are tightening the eligibility criteria for our COVID recovery benefits. We will ensure that these measures have no unintended consequences and will target individuals who travel for discretionary and non-essential purposes. This is not the time to travel abroad, and if you make the choice to do so, you will not be eligible for these benefits during your mandatory quarantine period.”

On Jan. 5, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to address this legislative loophole, which has allowed travellers to claim the $500 per week CRSB for the two-week self-isolation required of them upon their return to Canada.

This comes after it was discovered that numerous politicians from across Canada took non-essential trips during a time when governments and health officials have been stressing the importance of avoiding travel during the escalating health crisis.

Among those caught were Liberal MPs Sameer Zuberi and Kamal Khera, both of whom were found to have recently taken trips to the U.S. Since then, Zuberi has stepped down from his House of Commons committee roles and Khera resigned as parliamentary secretary to Canada’s minister of international development.

The stories of transgressing travellers seemed to kick off in late December, when it was discovered Ontario MPP Rod Phillips took a trip with his wife to the Caribbean for the Christmas holidays. Shortly after, Phillips resigned as Ontario’s finance minister.

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