Plans for Canada’s foreign affairs minister to take his second international trip in less than a month have raised questions around what’s allowed for those in quarantine and a discrepancy between what Canadians are told and what regulations actually say.
Marc Garneau’s office says he’s in quarantine after returning from a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in the United Kingdom last week.
His office says he arrived back in Canada on May 6, and stayed for two nights in a federal government-approved hotel in Montreal, as required by Ottawa for those entering the country by air to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
On May 18, one day before he finishes his mandatory 14-quarantine, he’s set to leave for the 12th ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council on May 19-20 in Reykjavik, Iceland.
The trip comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Public Health Agency of Canada have spent months telling Canadians to forgo non-essential travel to protect themselves and the country from the novel coronavirus and its more virulent mutations, which are driving a spike in cases and hospitalizations.
Trudeau has characterized Garneau’s second trip as essential, noting that travel required for work is still allowed and the necessary rules will be followed.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh suggested Garneau should not make the trip.
“As leaders, we need to use our position to set a good example and avoid any non-essential travel,” Singh told a news conference Wednesday.
Singh called it “shocking” the Liberals don’t appear to be following their own rules.
Asked about why Garneau, who was vaccinated with a first doseback in March, is allowed to exit his 14-day quarantine one day early, Global Affairs Canada pointed to a federal regulation.
It reads “a person who is in quarantine after entering Canada by aircraft may leave Canada before the expiry of the 14-day period if they remain in quarantine until they depart from Canada.”
However, that rule is different than what the federal government says on its own website around mandatory quarantine and isolation.
It says people may choose to leave the country before the end of their 14-day quarantine but, “You must use a private vehicle to depart Canada. You will not be allowed to board a flight if you are currently under a quarantine order.”
Similarly, the government’s website says those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms wishing to leave the country before the end of their 14-day isolation must do so by private vehicle and not take public transportation.
When questioned on the discrepancy, a Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman referred back to the federal regulations, including one stating someone in isolation may leave Canada at the discretion of a screening officer before their two weeks is up in a “private conveyance.”
“We invite you to refer to order-in-council 50 for information about quarantine and isolation. For further information about quarantine and isolation, please contact the Public Health Agency of Canada,” reads a statement.
Ricky Landry, a spokesman for Garneau, said the minister flew commercially to the United Kingdom, but will be taking one of the Canadian military’s Challenger jets to Iceland. The aircraft are available to cabinet ministers as well as the prime minister.
Trudeau has said he hopes to travel to the G7 leaders meeting in the U.K. in June.
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