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Canada’s mandatory self-isolation laws: Avoiding penalties

Monday, May 25, 2020 @ 2:39 PM | By Annsley Kesten, Carrie Wright and Jacqueline Bart


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All travellers entering Canada are subject to the federal Quarantine Act. Under this act, the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Mandatory Isolation), No. 2 (the Mandatory Isolation Order) requires travellers to self-isolate for 14 days immediately upon entry to Canada. Compliance is subject to monitoring, verification and enforcement.

Quarantine requirements

Mandatory quarantine requires that travellers travel to their place of self-isolation, directly and without stopping. While under quarantine, travellers must remain in a private location for 14 days and closely self-monitor for symptoms. During isolation, travellers must not have any contact with vulnerable people or have visitors, nor can they go to school, work, or other public areas. Arrangements must be made for the provision of essential items (such as food or medication). If the traveller is not able to present a suitable plan that will meet these requirements, the traveller will be directed to self-isolate at a government mandated quarantine facility.

Exemptions from mandatory quarantine

In extremely limited cases, certain foreign workers may be exempt from the mandatory self-isolation requirement. Pursuant to s. 6(e) of the Mandatory Isolation Order, which is effective until June 30, 2020, only limited classes of “essential” workers are eligible to request a quarantine exemption. These classes include: workers in the trade or transportation sector who are important for the movement of goods or people; workers who must cross the border regularly to go to their normal place of employment; and technicians specified by a government, manufacturer or manufacturer warranty who are required to maintain or repair equipment for critical infrastructure.

Recently, the Canadian government amended the procedure for obtaining a mandatory quarantine exemption, restricting the ability to obtain advanced approval for the exemption. At this time, the request for exemption must be adjudicated by the Canadian Border Services Agency screening officer upon entry to Canada.

Upon arrival, the border officer will review the applicant’s documentation and determine whether the applicant qualifies for an exemption from the mandatory self-isolation requirement. It is therefore imperative that foreign workers seeking an exemption from mandatory quarantine have sufficient documentation available demonstrating that the applicant meets the applicable criteria for an exemption. If the officer is not satisfied, the applicant must present a suitable plan to self-isolate for 14 days, or will otherwise be instructed to self-isolate at a government mandated facility.

Applicants who are exempt from mandatory quarantine continue to be required to wear an appropriate mask or face covering upon entry to Canada and while in transit. Notwithstanding the above exemptions for asymptomatic travellers, any individuals who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival to Canada are subject to mandatory isolation orders and may be refused entry.

Employer compliance with mandatory quarantine requirements

After the Mandatory Isolation Order came into effect, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations were also amended effective April 20, 2020, to allow Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to launch employer compliance investigations to determine:

  • Whether an employer of a foreign worker did anything to prevent the work from complying with the requirements of any order or regulation made under the Emergencies Act or the Quarantine Act;
  • Whether an employer of a foreign worker did anything to prevent the worker from complying with the requirements of any provincial law that governs public health in response to COVID-19;
  • Whether an employer of a foreign worker provided the foreign worker with wages during any period of isolation or quarantine that are substantially the same as those set out in the offer of employment or labour market impact assessment (LMIA); and
  • Whether an employer of a foreign worker that is responsible for providing accommodations under an LMIA: provided that foreign worker with accommodations separate from other persons during any period of quarantine and permit the foreign worker to remain at least two metres away from any other person; provided the foreign national with cleaning products for the purposes of cleaning and disinfecting the accommodations regularly; and provided a foreign national who becomes infected or shows symptoms of COVID-19 with accommodations that have a bedroom and bathroom that are solely for the use of the foreign national while they isolate themselves.

If the foreign worker is employed under an LMIA, employers have the additional responsibility of advising ESDC of the foreign worker’s arrival at their place of business.

This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two: Canada’s mandatory self-isolation laws: Staying compliant.

Jacqueline Bart and Carrie Wright are partners at BARTLAW LLP, Canadian Immigration, Barristers and Solicitors. Annsley Kesten is a senior associate at the firm. They can be reached at info@bartlaw.ca.

Photo credit / Waldemarus ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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