Justice Centre Sues Ottawa for ‘Forcible Confinement of Travellers’

February 17, 2021 Updated: February 17, 2021

A Canadian legal advocacy organization is suing the federal government over travel rules that will subject Canadians arriving in Canada to be “forcibly confined in hotels at a cost of $2,000 per traveller even though they return in possession of a negative PCR test.”

In a Feb. 17 press release, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) said it has received thousands of emails from outraged travelling Canadians ever since the Liberal government announced that “all citizens, regardless of their reason for travel, would be forced to have a COVID PCR test in order to board an airplane to return to Canada, then be forced to take another PCR test on arrival, and then be forcibly confined for up to three days while waiting for a negative test result, and also be forced to pay $2,000.”

The federal government announced on Feb. 12 that starting on Feb. 22, “non-essential” air travellers arriving in Canada will be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival before exiting the airport. They are then required to quarantine in a government-authorized hotel for three nights at their own expense while waiting for their test results. On top of that, they must take another test at the end of their 14-day quarantine period.

In an earlier announcement, the government had mandated air travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 lab test result from a test taken within 72 hours of their scheduled time of departure to Canada. This requirement went into effect at midnight on Jan. 7.

JCCF lawyer Sayeh Hassan said that Canadians travel for many reasons and that the new rules have undermined the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the fundamental right for people to enter and leave the country.

The organization is currently representing 13 individual applicants—including Steve Duesing, who was detained for three days in a Toronto hotel after arriving at the Toronto Pearson International Airport on Jan. 31.

According to Transport Canada’s web page updated on Jan. 15, returning travellers without access to COVID-19 testing in the country they were in “(typically) have a choice between taking a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival or being directed to a federal quarantine at the point of arrival.”

In Duesing’s case, he had presented a negative antigen test, which was deemed unacceptable by public health officials at the Pearson Airport. He was instructed to take a PCR test at the airport, which he did, but was escorted by the police against his will to an unknown quarantine facility, which he later learned was the Radisson Hotel, to wait for his test result, said the JCCF in an earlier press release on Feb. 12.

The JCCF said the Trudeau government’s hiring of security guards to enforce mandatory quarantines added to the threat of arrest and imprisonment for Canadians who refuse to be forcibly confined in a federal facility.

“Citizens are being held unlawfully despite not having been convicted of any offence, not having had access to a lawyer, and not having appeared before a judge,” JCCF president John Carpay stated in the Feb. 12 press release.

“Law enforcement officers are apparently refusing to inform family members of where their loved ones are being held. This outrageous policy aligns with the world’s most repressive and undemocratic regimes and is totally unacceptable.”

“Quarantine, particularly of healthy or asymptomatic individuals, is the functional equivalent of house arrest, and the Justice Centre will not allow it to continue unchallenged,” Carpay noted.

The centre said more applicants may be added as the lawsuit proceeds.